Report on medicines funding is a damning tale that needs an immediate happy ending

A breast cancer charity says a new report that identifies a multi-million dollar funding gap for medicines is a damning indictment of a failing system and an urgent wake-up call for change.

The report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has found that medicines funding has fallen in real terms every year since 2007 to the point where there is now an investment gap of more than $680 million.

The NZIER says this is how much extra money would be needed simply to bring the medicines budget back to the level it was in 2007 in real terms.

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) chair, Libby Burgess, says the report paints a shameful picture of medicines funding in New Zealand.

“The funding gap we are facing is stark and it’s real and it costs Kiwi lives. This is not just about a lack of investment in medicines, this is about a lack of care for New Zealanders who need these medicines to stay alive. 

“The everyday reality of this funding gap is that many Kiwis are suffering poorer health and dying unnecessarily and that’s a tragedy.”

The NZIER report also shows that medicines funding as a proportion of the entire health budget has reduced significantly over the past decade.

In 2007, medicines net funding accounted for 6.2% of the health budget, but the NZIER says that when adjustments are made to take into account population growth and inflation, medicines funding drops to a mere 3.6% of the budget for 2016/17.

Ms Burgess says medicines funding has been ignored for too long and New Zealanders now risked having third-world treatment options.

“Patient groups such as BCAC have been lobbying for increased medicines funding for years, but our pleas have been ignored. 

“The Government and its drug-buying agency PHARMAC should be aspirational in providing life-saving treatments to give New Zealanders the best chance of living long and healthy lives,” she says.

Ms Burgess acknowledges that PHARMAC has a tough job in prioritising medicines with such a paltry budget, but says the organisation has failed to make a strong case for more funding.

She says this has left New Zealand languishing in access to new and proven medicines. A recent Medicines Australia report found that New Zealand had the lowest access to new medicines out of all OECD countries.[1]

“What this means is that New Zealanders with breast cancer are currently missing out on four potentially life-changing medicines that are funded in Australia, but are not available here. New Zealanders deserve far better access to medicines,” she says.

Ms Burgess says BCAC will be calling on the new Minister of Health, David Clark, and the Government’s drug buying agency PHARMAC to address the issue immediately.

“We’ve watched and waited for the past decade as medicines funding has been ignored and has withered away. If we really care about Kiwi lives, then now is the time to invest more in medicines to ensure we can all access world-class treatments when we need them,” Ms Burgess says.

 

23 November 2017

 

About funding for breast cancer medicines in New Zealand:

  • New Zealanders with breast cancer are 40% more likely to die than Australians.[2]
  • Australia spends $435 per person on medicines, but in New Zealand we spend a mere $184 per person[3]
  • In the UK, 80% of approved new medicines are publicly funded, in Australia 39%, but in New Zealand it’s only 13%.[4]
  • Between 2009 and 2014, New Zealand ranked last out of 20 OECD countries in access to new medicines.[5]
  • Breast cancer drugs including Kadcyla, Abraxane, Afinitor and Halaven are publicly-funded in Australia but not in New Zealand.[6] 
 

[1] IMS Consulting Group 2015. Access to New Medicines: Comparison Across OECD Countries. Report for Medicines Australia. (Summarised version available in Medicines Australia 2015, Compare. www.medicines.com.au) 

[2] Campbell I.D., Scott N., Seneviratne S., Kollias, J., Walters D, Taylor, C, Webster F, Zorbas H and Roder DM 2014. Breast cancer survival in New Zealand women. ANZ J Surg. 2015 Jul;85 (7-8):546-52. doi: 10.1111/ans.12851.

[3] PHARMAC NZ; Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australia; Statistics NZ; Australian Bureau of Statistics.

[4] Access to New Medicines: Comparison Across OECD Countries. IMS Consulting Group, Report for Medicines Australia, 2015; Comparison of Access and Reimbursement Environments: A report benchmarking Australia’s access to new medicines. Medicines Australia (2015).

[5] Access to New Medicines: Comparison Across OECD Countries. IMS Consulting Group, Report for Medicines Australia, 2015; Comparison of Access and Reimbursement Environments: A report benchmarking Australia’s access to new medicines. Medicines Australia (2015).

[6] Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits: Effective 1 September 2016. PBS, Department of Health, Australian Government. www.pbs.govt.au

New Zealand Pharmaceutical Schedule: effective 1st October 2016. Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC).

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