New Zealand's Today FM and the Mediaworks network are not relenting in their criticism of Pharmac. They have now challenged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over her claims regarding the actions of the controversial medicines agency.
Pharmac imposed a ban on engagement with Today FM and Mediaworks in response to its report on Friday that the agency would announce a provisional agreement on the funding of cystic fibrosis therapy TRIKAFTA at 6 pm on Sunday.
Pharmac denied the story's veracity at the time. Yet subsequent events have exposed this denial as a blatant lie.
Today FM's Rachel Smalley mocked Pharmac's decision to 'revisit' its decision and replace it with a one week engagement ban across the Mediaworks network.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was questioned about Pharmac's ban at a media conference on Monday. She said she was reluctant to 'weigh in' on the issue of media suppression but then said, "Things like embargoes, when they do release information is so important... They are obviously a negotiating body. They enter into commercial negotiations.
"They may share embargoed information whilst there are still negotiations underway…"
Ms Smalley responded to the prime minister's statement in a new opinion piece published on the Today FM website.
"Huh? None of that made sense," said Ms Smalley and the prime minister's statement.
"The PM says Pharmac might still be negotiating with the drug company. She says that's probably what’s happened here.
"No, it's not prime minister. You can't say you're not getting involved, then get involved, and then state misinformation on this.
"The TRIKAFTA deal was inked early last week. You had to provide more funding for it. You should know the deal is done. And we reported that this deal was done. And our story was right and true and not embargoed.
"And Pharmac still banned us.
"Prime Minister, I respect your office. But none of what you said then made sense. And, worse, you’re okay with an unsubstantiated media ban from Pharmac."
Ms Smalley also challenged Pharmac's decision to tell patients about the funding decision via a stage-managed event with one media organisation.
She added, "But what I would remind you of is that a Government entity – Pharmac – has issued a ban on a media organisation. And they can’t tell us why. And the PM is okay with that."