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New Zealand’s medicines system still on life-support but can be saved

Medicines New Zealand welcomes the Government’s announcement of new investment in the medicines budget as any additional funding is a good thing for a system which is woefully underfunded. Nevertheless, it shows both a lack of compassion and a failure to protect New Zealand’s most vulnerable patients who need better access to medicines. The system is still clearly broken.

The DHBs’ medicines budget, which is managed but not owned by PHARMAC, has not kept up with  population growth and inflation since 2007. Now the COVID-19 crisis will only magnify the public funding crisis. A report by NZIER showed that an $80 investment per person per year was required to get medicines funding back to the equivalent of 2007 levels, before any potential impact of COVID-19.

“The injection of $50 million over the next year then the drip-feeding of funding over 3 more years into the health system will not address medicines inequity or improve patient outcomes now and into the future. It is a partial response to the deep-rooted problem of a poorly functioning medicines system in New Zealand” says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.

New Zealand already has an extensive backlog of over 100 priority medicines waiting to be publicly funded, despite being recommended for funding by PHARMAC’s own experts, the average waiting time is now almost five years and still these medicines are unfunded. The country also languishes in 20th position amongst 20 developed OECD nations in accessing only a handful of over 400 modern medicines, and even when funded, New Zealand takes twice as long to fund these medicines depriving both patients and the health system of the right medicines at the right time.

“There is no other way to describe this other than as a medicines system crisis. Despite the Government delivering a small, short term monetary injection in the Budget, we think it’s time for us all to sit down and collaborate on suitable solutions for patients and the health system for both now and into the future” says Dr Lee Mathias, Independent Board Chairman of Medicines New Zealand.

“Medicines New Zealand’s members are all undertaking considerable global collaboration efforts to find COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, as well as for existing diseases. The industry would welcome a discussion with the Government about accessing these as well as other modern medicines in a timely manner for New Zealanders” said Dr Mathias.


Medicines New Zealand is the industry group representing pharmaceutical companies operating in New Zealand. We advocate for the benefits of modern medicines as part of a high-quality public health system. Our objective is to ensure that New Zealanders have access to the right medicines at the right time.

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