Labour promises special fund for orphan drugs

The Labour Party says it would remove responsibility for high-cost medicines from the Government's drug-buying agency Pharmac if elected.

The Organisation for Rare Disorders hosted a conference in Wellington on Thursday about lack of access to specialised, high-cost drugs.

Labour's health spokesperson Annette King said she supports Pharmac's role in buying medicines for most New Zealanders.

However, she said it's time for a change in approach to the funding of the specialised, often expensive drugs needed by relatively few patients.

Ms King said if elected next year, Labour would have an orphan drugs policy managed by a board with a budget between $20 million and $25 million.

National MP Paul Hutchison said the topic poses a dilemma, but previous reviews have found the present Pharmac policy is best.

Having a separate bureaucracy would increase costs while funding pressures would continue, he said.

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