Budget 2020: New funding takes Pharmac's medicines budget to record $1.045b for 2020/21

Budget 2020 will ensure New Zealanders continue to get the medicines they need despite global pressure on supply chains, Health Minister David Clark said on Sunday.

The Government has announced an increase of $160 million over four years in the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget, which is managed by Pharmac and covers the purchasing of medicines, vaccines, medical devices and other treatments by district health boards (DHBs).

"New Zealanders deserve access to the best possible care and treatment and Pharmac plays a key part in that," Dr Clark said.

"Of course these are not normal times. Budget 2020 will have a significant focus on economic recovery and rebuilding to support jobs. But at the same time it is vital that we prioritise additional investment in critical services like Pharmac.

"First and foremost this will secure our medicine supply, while at the same time allowing scope for Pharmac to continue to work on expanding the range of funded treatments where possible."

Since Budget 2019, 13 new medications have been approved by Pharmac to become publicly funded, including six new cancer treatments. In the last two years, more than 200,000 New Zealanders have benefited from 65 additional or widened-access subsidised medicines, the Health Minister said. 

"Budget 2020 locks in those gains."

On September 1, 2019, the Government announced an additional $60 million in funding for Pharmac, $20 million of which was allocated for 2019/20 and $40 million for 2020/21. In April, the announcement was followed by a one-off investment of $35 million in essential medicines as part of the Government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sunday's announcement provides a further boost, with an extra $10 million in 2020/2021 and $150 million over the subsequent three years.

This "critical investment" in New Zealand's health takes Pharmac's medicines budget to a record $1.045 billion for 2020/2021 - an increase of $174 million, or 20 percent, since the 2017/18 period.

"This Government is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders," Dr Clark said. 

"Protecting our medicines supply by continuing to invest in Pharmac does just that."