Health Minister Andrew Little has released an interim report by an independent panel reviewing the national pharmaceuticals-buying agency Pharmac.
Pharmac was established in 1993 and is responsible for purchasing publicly funded medicines for New Zealanders, including those prescribed by GPs or administered in hospitals.
The review, chaired by former Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin, has been asked to look at how well Pharmac performs against its objectives, and whether those objectives need changing.
It is also looking at how quickly Pharmac makes decisions (especially for new medicines), the transparency and accessibility of its decision-making process, and issues about equity, including access to medicines for Māori, Pacific and disabled peoples.
“New Zealanders are among the only people in the world who have access to free medicines – in most countries, families have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year for even everyday medications,” Andrew Little said.
“Our drug-buying system was set up nearly three decades ago and is the envy of the world, but it’s sensible to look at how well it is doing the job we want it to do.”
The interim report sets out what the review panel has seen and heard, and outlines some of the issues it has found.
“I particularly note the review panel’s comments about equity and transparency,” Andrew Little said.
“The final report, which I expect to receive by February 28, will include recommendations for addressing issues identified by the panel. The final report was initially expected by the end of the year, but I agreed to an extension requested by the panel to give it time to come up with workable recommendations.”