Māori access to medicines 'could suffer'

7:45 am on 29 July 2015

An oncologist is warning an increase in medicine costs under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could divert attention away from providing more equitable access to medicines for Māori.

Prime Minister John Key has conceded New Zealand will pay more for some medicines under the TPP as there is a high probability patents on medicines will be extended under the deal.

But he said patients would not be affected because the Government will meet the difference between the cost of patent and generic drugs.

George Laking, from Doctors for Healthy Trade, said while patients may not have to pay extra, it will mean some medicines just won't be available.

He said the problem of the under-prescription of all kinds of medicines to Māori will become even less visible when the pressure goes on the cost of highly expensive patented drugs.

Mr Laking, who is of Te Whakatōhea descent, said if you make a poor investment in one area of health people in other areas suffer because the resources are not available for them.

He said he had serious concerns about the impact of the TPP on healthcare in New Zealand, but the Government had rejected calls for an independent health assessment of the agreement.

Mr Laking said there were not always cheaper substitutes for patented medicines as the Prime Minister claims, and the redtape required under the agreement could make it difficult for the Government drug buying agency Pharmac to get anything done.