On Tuesday the Australian Government committed AU$691 million Dollars ($832 million NZ) over 5 years for new pharmaceutical investments - a forecast growth of 4.9%. In today's New Zealand budget the pharmaceutical spend was not even mentioned, with the PHARMAC line item noticeably absent. It is disappointing that such a significant line item is not specified in the budget.
In last year's budget PHARMAC estimated savings of $110 million as result of patent expiry. It was disappointing that these savings were not reinvested to fund innovative medicines and vaccines but a large portion went back into the general Vote Health pool. In effect the medicines budget shrank by $30 million last year.
The pharmaceuticals (PHARMAC) funding not being specified in the Vote Health budget raises the question, "has last year's approach of not reinvesting savings in innovative medicines been repeated?" New Zealand patients are left wondering how long they will be waiting for the best medicines to effectively treat their illnesses.
"Any further drop in pharmaceuticals funding would only create longer delays for patients in accessing medicines - already an average of 3.6 years." Medicines New Zealand, General Manager, Kevin Sheehy says.
New Zealand spends only 9.4% of its health expenditure on medicines compared to an average of 16% across the OECD and New Zealand ranks 31st out of 32 countries in the amount spent on pharmaceuticals as a share of GDP.
New Zealander's are worse off than Australians with regard to access to new medicines. In June 2012 there were 94 more new medicines funded in Australia than New Zealand, a trend that has been present for at least the last ten years and will need better investment to be reversed.
"Innovative treatments often provide improved ways of treating medical conditions. We believe that New Zealanders expect and deserve the best possible standard of medical care, comparable to other developed countries." Medicines New Zealand, Chair, Heather Roy says.