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Boring Budget 2021 reinforces two tier medicines access system in New Zealand

Announcement in the budget today of $200 million over the next four years is simply meeting the Government's election 2020 promise for funding existing medicines and some new ones. It does nothing to solve the medicines access crisis or medicines inequity issues for Māori and Pacific peoples, and simply confirms information already leaked to the media earlier this week.

While New Zealand’s total health budget has increased with a big investment to overcome the COVID-19 and DHB funding issues, the medicines budget has not kept up with population growth and inflation since 2007 and is still in crisis. Evidence for this came from a recent Official Information Act release stating the immediate need for additional investment of over $400 million per year to fund just 74 prioritised medicines to improve patients health outcomes and wellbeing. This simply reinforces the already well established fact that there is a ‘budget blackhole’ for medicines investment in New Zealand. 

“Instead of relying on our health system, New Zealand patients are continuously being forced to protest, submit parliamentary petitions or seek solutions online and abroad. They are now turning to crowdfunding, selling their homes and using Kiwisaver funds in order to access these modern treatments by out-of-pocket or private means to survive” says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.

New Zealand also has an extensive backlog of over 100 medicines waiting to be publicly funded, despite being recommended for funding by medicines experts. Some of the medicines on this list have been waiting up to ten years or more due to budget shortfalls, and are still not yet funded.

“There is no other way to describe this other than as a catastrophe for medicines access. Despite the Government failing to deliver anything substantive in Budget 2021, the medicines sector will continue to collaborate with the Government, via the PHARMAC Review Committee, around solutions such as the development of a suitable medicines strategy and policy that has at its centre - improved health outcomes, more transparency and faster timelines for equitable patient access to publicly-funded medicines” says Dr Jarvis. 


Medicines New Zealand is the industry group representing biopharmaceutical companies operating in New Zealand. We advocate for the benefits of modern medicines and vaccines as part of a high-quality public health system.

Kristen Edwards, Communications Advisor, Medicines New Zealand.
Ph: 027 534 6461