New Zealand's Government scrambles to manage patient anger

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New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Finance Minister Nicola Willis are scrambling to reassure patients that the Coalition Government will deliver on the National's pre-election promise to fund medicines for 13 cancer types.

The two are under pressure after last week's Budget failed to include implementation of the promise meant to be funded by the targeted reintroduction of patient co-payments for medicines. However, the Government has used savings generated by the co-payment measure to help fund its NZ$1.8 billion fix for Pharmac's fiscal cliff.

On Tuesday, 15 cancer organisations slammed the Government over its failure to fulfil the pre-election promise.

In response, Prime Minister Luxon told Newshub that National remains committed to the promise.

"It's a promise we are going to deliver on but the reality is there is quite a lot for us to work through with respect to how we actually do the procurement, there's a number of options and things we have to consider around how to do that.

"The other thing that happened for us in this particular budget was that we hadn't planned on having to find $1.8 billion dollars to do the Pharmac drug program, the core program that Labour had not funded beyond a period of time."

The prime minister said work "was already underway" on options to improve access to cancer medicines.

Minister Willis was asked about the promise during a media conference following a Budget speech to a business group in Christchurch.

The minister said the Government is working through the "complexity" of the funding options. "We are absolutely going to deliver on it," she said.