Monday 12 August 2019
“A Bitter Pill to Swallow”: New Zealand Ranks Last in OECD for Medicines Access Again
The 2019 IQVIA ‘International Comparisons of Modern Medicines’ (ICoMM) Report, which compares the public funding of
modern medicines in 20 OECD countries, paints a bleak picture for New Zealanders who desperately need access to
medicines. Despite its strong economic indicators New Zealand comes last, with the worst access to modern medicines and
the lowest pharmaceutical investment level overall.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” says Patient Voice Aotearoa (PVA) Chair Malcolm Mulholland. “Of the 304 modern
medicines included, only 17 were funded by Pharmac. No modern medicines were funded for conditions including arthritis,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rare diseases and mental health.
“For cancer, only 6 modern medicines were funded – leaving 28 cancer medicines and more than 120 medicines in total
sitting on Pharmac’s waiting list. The average time taken for Pharmac to fund medicines (512 days) was also twice as
slow as the OECD average (233 days).
“The report confirms what other research has been saying for some time now. That New Zealanders are being denied
medicines that patients in other OECD countries take for granted, and the few modern medicines that are funded take far
too long to be approved.
“We have fallen well behind the rest of the first world and it is beyond belief that treatment for conditions that
affect countless New Zealanders – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental health – are not being funded”
Despite Pharmac’s recent decision to fund Alectinib (Alecensa) for lung cancer patients pending a period of
consultation, Lung Foundation Chief Executive and PVA Trustee Philip Hope has called for “an immediate tripling of the
“The gap that has been uncovered in medicines funding has been growing year on year in real terms, when taking
population growth and inflation into account. All six of the lung cancer drugs (including Alectinib) sitting with
Pharmac are endorsed as standard of care, and they are reimbursed right across the bulk of OECD countries, including
“The question we have to ask as advocates, and the question that patients are asking, is when will the government (and
Pharmac) undertake corrective action to fill the investment gap into modern medicines?”
PVA Trustee and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Lead Advocate Fiona Tolich said “There are 377,000 New Zealanders living
with a rare disease and there is no system in New Zealand to support the funding of medicines for this community. Not a
single modern medicine has been funded in this space. Pharmac is not fit for purpose for many conditions but least of
all rare disorders. When you have families fleeing like refugees to save their own or their children’s lives does that
not tell you that something is seriously wrong with our country?”
Patient Voice Aotearoa believes that the IQVIA Report reinforces the lived experience of New Zealand patients with a
range of diseases and illnesses. Many of whom appeared before the Parliamentary Health Select Committee (HSC) last week
asking the HSC to urge Pharmac to fund more modern medicines.
“Yet again the Health Select Committee heard first-hand the devastating effects Pharmac is having by delaying decisions
and not funding drugs that are so badly needed to improve the quality of life, extend life, or save lives” says Malcolm.
“The time for increased funding for Pharmac, and reform of the Pharmac model is well overdue. If this doesn’t happen New
Zealanders will continue to needlessly suffer and die.
“Pharmac’s decision to fund Kadcyla (for breast cancer), Alectinib (for lung cancer), and Ocrelizumab (for multiple
sclerosis), is a welcome decision but one that took far too long. As advocates for patients with a range of conditions
we will continue fighting for access to modern medicines for the good of New Zealanders and generations to come. We will
leave nobody behind.”
About Patient Voice Aotearoa: Patient Voice Aotearoa (PVA) is a newly established charitable trust, which advocates for
the rights of New Zealand Patients. PVA has already amassed nearly 3,000 members and is a national collective of
patients, caregivers, whānau and disease and illness advocacy organisations.
Read the ICoMM 2019 Report here: https://bit.ly/2MOb6bw