Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Pharmac outlines changes at Tauranga public forum

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Pharmac came to Tauranga yesterday to discuss proposed changes to improve how medicines and medical device funding applications were made and assessed.

About 183,000 people in the Bay of Plenty received funded medicines last year.

Pharmac is the Crown entity which decides which pharmaceuticals and related products are subsided in the community and in public hospitals.

Pharmac plans to make changes to improve its funding application and assessment process to ensure it makes the best decisions, and meets New Zealand's obligations under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

Jude Urlich, Pharmac's director of strategic initiatives, told the 11-strong audience at Arataki Community Centre yesterday that the proposed changes would not change the heart of the Pharmac model, nor decrease the amount of funding available.

Ms Urlich said Pharmac had access to the expertise of 120 clinicians who helped assess the merits of each funding application, and of the 100-odd applications received each year only a handful were declined.

"We have a strictly capped budget each year which means that we have to make difficult choices. Our aim is to ensure that we get the best possible health outcomes we can for as many people as possible from the funding available," she said.

Ms Urlich said Pharmac was proposing setting a time frame for considering certain funding applications, and establishing a review process for those it declined.

To support these changes, Pharmac was also suggesting changes which would make it easier for people to submit applications online and to check what stage of the assessment process their application was at.

The changes would only take effect when the TPP comes into effect for New Zealand, which the Government signed up to on February 4.

Mount Maunganui resident Max Lewis, 80, was among those who attended the public consultation forum in Tauranga, yesterday.

Mr Lewis said he was one of 500 people who took part in an Australasian "Statins" clinical trial 40 years ago and as a result of the trial Pharmac began funding this drug and continued to do so today.

"Statins not only helped keep my heart ticking for the past 20 years but enhanced my overall quality of life. I think Pharmac is an excellent [funding} model and Pharmac does great work for NZ citizens," he said.

Pharmac is accepting written feedback on these proposals through its website www.pharmac.govt.nz.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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