Medicines New Zealand says Budget delivers 'broken hearts and a third-world position'

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Medicines New Zealand has described last week's Budget as "extremely disappointing", while Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says the Government remains committed to improving access to cancer medicines.

The Budget included almost NZ$1.8 billion to address Pharmac's fiscal cliff, which the Coalition Government inherited. However, it did not include additional funding for the agency or progress on National's pre-election commitment to fund medicines for 13 cancer types.

Pharmac's funding waiting list, the Options for Investment (OFI), included over 90 medicines. Around 40 per cent for cancer.

Medicines New Zealand said the lack of additional funding would leave the country at the bottom of the OECD in terms of both access to medicines and overall investment. At 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product compared to the OECD average of 1.4 per cent, non-OECD countries like Mexico and Colombia are investing more in medicines than New Zealand, said the association.

“While we appreciate the efforts made by the Government to fill the well-identified fiscal cliffs in the medicines budget, and acknowledge that the country is in a tough fiscal position, the lack of follow through on an election promise to fund cancer medicines is disappointing to see. This must be extremely heart-breaking for all those in the health system especially doctors, their cancer patients and the patients’ families,” said Medicines New Zealand CEO Dr Graeme Jarvis.

“The general public, and those in the health system all agree that cancer and other medicines are an important tool to deliver a fully functioning health system. So a failure to increase investment in medicines is a clear sign that New Zealand will continue to struggle as far as medicines access and the patients within the health system go," said Dr Jarvis.

Prime Minister Luxon was questioned on the failure to deliver the pre-election commitment on cancer medicines.

“I want everyone to understand we are very, very committed to increasing cancer drugs and making them more available to New Zealanders,” he said. “We’ve been working hard on that, we’ve got more work to do and we’ll have something more to say about that shortly.”

Finance Minister Nicola Willis added, “We are absolutely going to deliver on it.”