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Prime Minister Committed To Pharmac Investigation, But Health Minister At Odds

On 30 September Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern committed to having an investigation into Pharmac’s decision-making processes, the same day she received an open letter endorsed by 105 medical professionals slamming Pharmac’s processes, but official correspondence shows Health Minister Chris Hipkins appears not to have heard about it.

Earlier in the day Act Leader David Seymour announced an independent review of Pharmac as policy. Then under pressure that evening from host Patrick Gower in the Newshub Leaders Debate, both the Labour and National leaders agreed to a Pharmac investigation (with the Greens joining the call a week later).

But despite the PM’s public commitment, Crohn’s & Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust Chair Dr Richard Stein, who has long been raising the need for a review of Pharmac, received a template response from Minister Hipkins dismissing the issue. (Read the Minister’s letter here and Dr. Stein’s response here.)

“Even without the PM’s commitment , the loss of confidence in Pharmac by over 100 medical professionals should by itself be compelling enough to stop the Health Minister from continuing to shelter an agency that is patently failing to meet the objectives set by the Government to provide the best health outcomes for New Zealanders.

“It is also clear that the tide of public opinion has turned on Pharmac. Over 64,000 concerned people have signed petitions calling for change. While we are waiting, patients suffering with serious diseases are having to take to the streets or turn to the media to have their voices heard.

“It is time for the Prime Minister and the Health Minister to listen to its own experts and the public and give a clear and unqualified assurance that an independent review of Pharmac’s processes and operation will be carried out with urgency,” said Dr Stein.

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