'We regret that it hasn’t been possible in this Budget'

Latest NewsBioPharmaNews of the Day

New Zealand's Coalition Government has delivered its Budget, confirming the NZ$1.77 billion to address Pharmac's 'fiscal cliff' but no additional funding, including for its pre-election commitment to fund cancer medicines for 13 cancer types.

Associate Minister for Pharmac David Seymour announced the NZ$1.77 billion at the Valuing Life Summit in Wellington.

The former Government provided additional funding for Pharmac but not beyond a fixed period. The new funding was required to ensure Pharmac avoided a 30 per cent reduction in annual funding.

The Coalition Government's senior partner, National, led by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, went to last year's election committed to funding medicines for 13 cancer types based on advice from New Zealand's Cancer Control Agency.

The commitment was to be funded by reinstating a means-tested prescription co-payment.

However, while the Budget confirmed that the NZ$5 medicine co-payment will be reinstated for people 14 years and over, the savings generated will be directed towards addressing Pharmac's 'fiscal cliff'.

According to Health Minister Dr Shane Reti, “The $1.77 billion increase to Pharmac’s budget was far larger than anticipated prior to the election, due to funding cliffs left by the previous Government. We have prioritised this essential investment and anticipate that future Budgets will help widen medicine access, including to cancer treatments.

“Prescriptions will continue to be free for people with community services cards, people under 14 years of age, and people aged 65 and over."

Finance Minister Nicola Willis said she was disappointed the funding for cancer medicines could not be announced. “We regret that it hasn’t been possible in this Budget," she said, adding that the government was “determined” to deliver on the promise.

Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Ah-Leen Rayner welcomed the Budget's expanded access to breast cancer screening.

“However, the lack of funding for new cancer drugs leaves some breast cancer patients in an untenable situation while the Government kicks the medicines crisis down the road," she said. “There are breast cancer drugs that Pharmac has assessed to be necessary and will fund if it has enough money. Without a substantial increase to Pharmac’s budget, women are still denied access to these essential treatments. This is not a problem that can be put off for another day or another Budget – we need to see urgent investment and transformational change.”