Pharmac review: Government accepts majority of recommendations, drug-buying agency to focus on equality for Māori, Pacific communities

Pharmac will renew its focus on equality after the Government accepted the majority of recommendations made by an independent review panel. 

The Pharmac Review Panel found the drug buying agency has achieved "significant benefits" but recommended a focus on equality across communities moving forward. 

"The panel found Pharmac's model has delivered significant benefits, but to achieve its purpose these benefits need to be shared more equitably across our communities, especially for Māori and Pacific peoples," Health Minister Andrew Little said on Wednesday. 

"As a result of this Review, Pharmac will have a much greater focus on improving the health of Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people and other groups who do not yet share equitably in the benefits Pharmac provides.

"This will mean stronger relationships with Māori to honour te tiriti o Waitangi, that Pharmac is more inclusive of people with health needs, and explains its work more openly for the public.

"The Pae Ora Bill will put into action many aspects of the recommendations made by the Review Panel to be more collaborative, engaging and equity-focused." 

The panel made 33 recommendations that focus on Pharmac's governance and accountability, its decision-making and the spread of its functions and responsibilities. It also recommended the agency take a closer look at two areas of public concern, cancer medicines and rare disorders.

The report said cancer drugs should be considered in the same way as other drugs with a focus on equitable access.

The Government also agreed with the report's findings that more can be done to improve the lives of people with rare disorders and to make it easier for people, practitioners and organisations to get information and support.

Little has instructed the ministry to lead the development of a strategy to provide better, more timely services and more equitable support and outcomes for people and whānau with rare disorders.

Little said Pharmac has accepted the panel's findings and is committed to making the necessary changes. He said work is already underway to meet the recommendations. 

"The Government agrees in principle with most of them [the recommendations]. There is a small number of recommendations where the Government takes a different view, for example where the health reforms will address the underlying issues now or in the future," Little said.

"The main change is that Pharmac will be required to engage more with health consumer voices and to more actively collaborate and co-ordinate with other parts of the health administration.

"For example, developing a vaccine strategy is not just a matter of good procurement but needs to take account of a broader range of objectives which the Ministry of Health must be integrally involved with."

The Panel calls for Pharmac to increase substantially its efforts to:

  • secure equitable outcomes for all New Zealanders, especially for Māori, Pacific peoples and disabled people
  • engage with and promote participation and share in decision-making for Māori and honour te tiriti o Waitangi
  • make its processes, decisions and information it holds more open and accessible to the public,consumer groups and people needing accessible information
  • include consumer advice and lived experience in many aspects of its work and decision-making including for people with rare disorders
  • collaborate much more strongly with other health agencies to achieve more equitable health outcomes, and
  • explain the highly technical work it does and the impacts it has on people's health, and to do this with equity of health outcomes clearly visible.

In its recent Budget, the Government gave Phamrac a $191 million boost bringing its total budget to $1.2 million.