Calls for a formal investigation into Pharmac

By Tema Hemi

Breast Cancer Aotearoa is calling for a formal investigation into Pharmac, the country's supplier of advanced medicines and treatments. 

Emma Crowley of Breast Cancer Aotearoa says, "We think that Pharmac needs to open the doors and we need to really have a look at how they are deciding which medicines are funded, what they are spending their money on."

Crowley says there are growing concerns about Pharmac funding being returned to the government. 

"Why are they giving money back to the government every year and then saying they don't have enough to buy the medicines we need.  We've met with ministers, the prime minister and the current administration to do something about it but it seems to fall on deaf ears."

Health Minister David Clarke says Pharmac made savings of two hundred million dollars when money was shifted from the DHB's budget into the pharmaceutical budget. 

"That budget for Pharmac remains high, in fact it's the highest it's ever been, it's close to a billion dollars and we're getting more medicines for more people.  In the last year that we have records of, 331,000 patients potentially benefited."

The government released details of tranche one of its cancer plan last week with more details on the way. 

"Pharmac does a job that is difficult for anyone to do.  They make decisions about which drugs to fund on behalf of the taxpayer," says Clark.

Crowley says Māori have poorer outcomes, have poorer access to medicines and are even less likely to get access to newer medicines. 

"We need more money, I mean the crux of it is Pharmac doesn't have enough money to do what they need to do."