• Pharmac funding boost follows scrutiny, pleas for help
• $190 million over two years for more 'well-evidenced' drugs
After extensive pressure on drug-buying agency Pharmac, and a major review of its operations, Budget 2022 has provided a big cash injection.
Pharmac's medicines budget has received its biggest boost in history with $191 million allocated over two years to make more medicines and other health treatments available.
Health Minister Andrew Little said some of the new money would be for new medicines and some for existing medicines Pharmac would like to fund for wider use.
"Pharmac has assured me it will use this funding to secure as many medicines on its list as it can, with a focus on better cancer treatments, to ensure as many New Zealanders as possible benefit from this biggest-ever increase to medicines funding," Little said.
He said Pharmac released its Options for Investment List last year, aiming to be more transparent about the medicines it would like to fund when money was available.
The increase in the combined pharmaceutical budget amounted to $71 million this year and $120 million next year.
The Government expected the funding boost to improve patient access to well-evidenced medical treatments.
The Budget announcement followed concerns about New Zealanders missing out on many potentially life-saving drugs for cancer and other illnesses.
The Cancer Control Agency last month identified numerous cancer drugs that were funded in Australia but not New Zealand.
And this week, a group of patients and supporters travelled to Wellington for the Budget announcement, hoping to get good news about Pharmac funding.
Among them was Zoey Butcher, 2, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) which, if untreated, will leave her unable to walk or even stand.
"I'm hoping to obviously gain access to the treatment for her, just to improve her quality of life," Zoey's mum Chauntel Wedlake told the Herald yesterday.
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The family arrived today at Parliament with patient advocate Malcolm Mulholland to see what the Budget might mean for people who need life-saving drugs.
Pharmac's total funding will be $1.2 billion, which the minister said was 43 per cent up since 2017.
Pharmac this afternoon said it welcomed the $191m boost and was already working through the medicine options for investment list.
"This budget increase is the biggest we've had since we were formed almost 30 years ago," Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said.
Pharmac said it was talking with suppliers about possible agreements, and was releasing a request for proposals for immune checkpoint inhibitors for lung cancer treatment.
The agency said it also started formal consultation on proposals to fund drugs for breast cancer, blood cancer, multiple sclerosis, hormone replacement and HIV.
"This is just the beginning. This budget increase will mean many more treatments being progressed for funding over the coming 12 to 24 months," Fitt added.
"With new and often expensive medicines being developed all the time, there will always be medicines we won't be able to afford. We will, however, be using our expertise to ensure we can secure as many treatments as possible."