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Growing Medicines Waiting List an International Disgrace

The lack of transparency over timeliness and funding processes means New Zealand has a waiting list of over 100 priority medicines that wait to be publicly funded by PHARMAC. All medicines on this list have been positively recommended for funding by PHARMAC’s own technical advisory board as they are seen to offer positive benefits to patients and the health system.

The medicines waiting list has grown from 92 medicines in 2015 to 105 medicines in 2019.

“Patients are missing out on medicines that could provide better health outcomes for illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease where prevalence and burden of disease is high, as well as many other illnesses such as cancer and rare diseases” says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.

Medicines on the waiting list have been waiting on average 4.15 years and as long as 15 years. All waiting list medicines are publicly funded in a large number of overseas countries.

“Patients need these medicines right now, they don’t have time to wait. In many cases, medicines decrease hospitalisations and reduce downstream costs to the health system. The sooner patients get access to these medicines, the better their quality of life. This waiting list is an international disgrace for patient equity in New Zealand” says Dr Jarvis.

While PHARMAC’s budget recently received a funding increase, this appears to have had minimal impact to the waiting list. Without an increase in transparency and clear decision timeframes, it is unknown whether PHARMAC will fund the full waiting list of recommended medicines and if so, when that will occur. The existence of a waiting list of more than 100 medicines is evidence that PHARMAC’s funding processes and budget levels require review. Without a review, the waiting list is likely to continue to exist - if not grow.

“Clearing the backlog of medicines on the waiting list should be one of this government’s priorities” says Dr Jarvis.

The Medicines Waiting List report is available online here.


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