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Budget 2024 Medicines Investment: Broken Hearts and a Third-World Position

The lack of additional investment in New Zealand’s medicines budget, especially the failure to announce the funding of 13 cancer-drug treatments promised before the election is extremely disappointing. It is well established that Pharmac has a prioritised waiting list (the Options for Investment (OFI) list) of over 90 medicines, with around 40% being cancer medicines.


While a pre-Budget announcement about filling the fiscal cliff in the medicines budget was welcome news, the lack of further investment continues to leave New Zealand at the bottom of the OECD in terms of both access to modern medicines and overall medicines investment levels. At 0.4% of GDP compared to the OECD average of 1.4%, even non-OECD countries like Mexico and Colombia are investing more in medicines than New Zealand. 


“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.” Says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.


This news is made worse by the fact that numerous studies have established that cancer medicines are worthwhile investments, including one that highlighted that a dollar invested in cancer medicines saves a dollar via reduced hospitalisation in the New Zealand health system.


“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. 


Despite the Government failing to deliver anything substantive in Budget 2024, Medicines New Zealand hopes that there is a change of perspective on medicines investment and that the Government in Budget 2025 will recognise the value that medicines bring to the New Zealand health system and society. After all, Pharmac itself has stated it needs over $400 million per year to clear its prioritised medicines waiting list of over 90 medicines. 


Medicines New Zealand is the industry group representing innovative 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.

Grace Abbott, Digital Communications Advisor, Medicines New Zealand.
Ph: 027 534 6461