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Trans-Tasman Medicines Report: New Zealand Appalling Inequity Gap Exposed

A new report, Access to Medicines 3 (AtoM 3) generated by IQVIA, the world's largest healthcare data science company, showed that New Zealand is consistently publicly funding fewer cost-effective modern medicines than Australia and making funding decisions at a slower pace.

The report, independently commissioned by Medicines New Zealand, showed that Australia publicly funded almost three times more modern medicines than New Zealand, 143 vs 51 medicines respectively, between the years 2011 to 2020. It took New Zealand almost twice as long to publicly fund those medicines with the average time taken being 2.2 years.

The lack of timeliness also held true when looking at public funding for the exact same medicines, with New Zealand being on average almost twice as slow as Australia to make funding decisions. This is despite both countries having a very similar approach to assessment processes when it comes to publicly funding medicines.

“What this ‘apples with apples comparison’ shows is that the publicly-funded processes used in Australia are more efficient at getting their patients and the public health system cost-effective modern medicines in a timely fashion” says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.

Further analysis of a subset of 105 modern medicines that Australia publicly funded but New Zealand did not, showed that 40% of those cost-effective modern medicines were not even registered in New Zealand. Meaning that the country is also lagging far behind Australia in the registration of modern medicines. However, given both the comparatively slow funding process timeframes and low likelihood of obtaining public funding for modern medicines in New Zealand, even if Medsafe registered, this finding in the report is not surprising.

“When it comes to access to modern cost-effective medicines that have been proven to benefit both patients and the health system - we appear to be falling further behind Australia as regards medicines equity for patients. For a first world country that both prides itself on wellbeing and kindness and has correctly taken a ‘health is the number 1 priority approach’ to COVID-19, we should be ashamed” says Dr Jarvis.

The interim report from an ongoing independent review of PHARMAC, the Government’s medicines procurement agency, has recently been released. The report found poor timeliness of decision-making and low transparency of processes around decision making, as well as the inequity for Māori and Pacific peoples in accessing modern medicines.

“Evidence such as the IQVIA AtoM 3 report and the independent PHARMAC Review report’s findings are extremely concerning. It’s clear that the country is teetering at the edge of a dangerous inaccessibility cliff for cost-effective modern medicines. All stakeholders urgently need to find solutions that resolve this clear and present danger to modern medicines access and equity for Aotearoa New Zealand and its patients and healthcare system” says Dr Jarvis.

You can read the full AtoM 3 report here.

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