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Budget 2022 Medicines Investment: A start, but also a potential rapid and painful stop?

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Announcement in the budget of $191 million of new investment for medicines over the next two years is a start, but the fact that there is no confirmed additional investment beyond those two years is both a risk and concern, especially when compared to most other health packages in this year's budget where four years of investment was confirmed. It also shows the Government is starting to partially honour its commitment to improving New Zealand’s access to medicines and patients wellbeing. This action today will also start to help solve both the medicines access crisis and medicines inequity issues for Māori and Pacific peoples.

The establishment of a defined medicines appropriation in Budget 2022, has also now made it clear the level of medicines investment is only 5% of the total health portfolio. This investment level will continue to see New Zealand at the bottom of the OECD rankings compared to our peer nations such as Australia and the UK where the investment level is over 10%.

"This should be a concern, as polls show that 90% of New Zealanders believe that medicines are an important part of an effective public health system. Clearly lower levels of investment in medicines has knock-on effects, as it is well established that modern medicines reduce pressures upstream in health systems, by lowering hospitalisation rates, and reducing mortality, as well as allowing patients to become an active part of their whānau and community again". Says Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand

New Zealand’s well-established extensive backlog of medicines sitting on various waiting lists to be publicly funded including some that are still waiting up to ten years or more due to funding shortfalls, and a further 73 medicines on the Options for Investment (OFI) List requiring over $400 million per year in additional public funding to clear it, also reinforces the problem and other issues with the medicines procurement system.

"While the new funding commitments to grow the medicines budget can slowly start to clear this backlog of recommended medicines on these lists - there is much more to be done. The modern medicines industry remains committed to assisting the Government after the PHARMAC Review’s final report is released to deliver the right solutions to the most critical stakeholders in the public health system- patients and their whānau '' says Dr Jarvis.

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