Key Points:

The National Party would increase funding for subsidised medicines by $40 million in 2009-10.

Over the following two years further boosts would increase the extra funding to $60m, then $80m.

The new money would cover the party's previously released commitment to fund a full year's Herceptin treatment for breast cancer sufferers - expected to cost an extra $9m per year above current Herceptin costs.

National Party Leader John Key made the policy announcement at a Grey Power meeting in Hastings this morning.

"National recognises that many Kiwis have limited access to modern medicines. We will improve that access.

"We will boost overall funding for medicines and speed up the registration of new medicines, with final approval remaining in New Zealand," Mr Key said.

"These initiatives will be funded within the indicative health spending allocations in the Prefu (pre-election fiscal and economic update)," Mr Key said.

"They are also further examples of our determination to shift spending into frontline services for patients, rather than backroom costs."

At present access to unfunded, high-cost or highly specialised medicines required approval from Pharmac's community exceptional circumstances committee, which had a small budget and restrictive eligibility criteria.

The policy document said doctors had given up applying because success was so unlikely.

It said National would work with Pharmac and others to investigate a better mechanism.

There were also concerns about the amount of time it took to register a new medicine.

National would give greater recognition to prior registration of medicines in Australia; the United States; United Kingdom and European Union and Canada.

Mr Key said New Zealanders expected to have similar access to medicine available in comparable countries and more money needed to go into it.

"Countries we like to compare ourselves with - such as Australia - spend more, in part because they have higher incomes. Australia provides much better access to medicines than New Zealand does.

"It is clear that in the medium term only better economic performance overall will enable us to spend significantly more on healthcare. National is firmly focused on achieving that growth."

National would strive to get more services from existing health spending by reducing waste and bureaucracy, and by lifting productivity, he said.

About 12 per cent of New Zealand's public health spending went on medicines compared to an average of 18 per cent in the OECD. Public funding per person on pharmaceuticals in New Zealand is only two-thirds of what it is in Australia.

"This boost in medicines funding will mean real per-person funding for medicines will gradually increase under a National-led Government. It will broaden access to medicines for many New Zealanders."

- NZPA