8 Apr 2014

Contestable fund for drugs planned

9:19 pm on 8 April 2014

Pharmac is planning to set up a contestable fund to drive down the prices of unaffordable medicines. The Government's drug-buying agency says up to $5 million a year could be available.

Patients with rare disorders frequently complain that Pharmac's processes make it impossible to fund the high-cost medicines needed by small numbers of patients.

The agency says the problem is a lack of competition and chief executive Steffan Crausaz says more competition between suppliers could be the answer.

"We would absolutely like to see a high level of competition - that's the purpose of the intention behind what we're intending to do here so that we can get the prices down for some of these extraordinarily high cost treatments and, as a result, be able to give patients more access than we can at the moment."

Suppliers of such medicines are being urged to work with Pharmac, which says it will seek proposals from them later this year for access to the fund.

Patients are cautiously welcoming the step but say $5 million may not be enough.