8 May 2017

Health groups welcome new drug-funding plans

2:51 pm on 8 May 2017

Health groups are largely welcoming Pharmac's plans for better access to drugs including melatonin, HIV retrovirals and a lung cancer treatment.

An extra $60 million for Pharmac over the next four years will benefit more than 30,000 New Zealanders, it said.

An extra $60 million for Pharmac over the next four years will benefit more than 30,000 New Zealanders, it said. Photo: 123RF

The drug-buying agency is to consult the public over plans to fund five new medicines and widen access to 33 others.

The plans were unveiled yesterday, with a pre-Budget announcement of an extra $60 million for Pharmac over the next four years.

Pharmac said the funding, and its plans for the money, would benefit more than 30,000 New Zealanders.

The Paediatric Society said funding of melatonin would be a relief for families struggling with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability.

"We've long wanted this because families with neurodevelopmental challenges are already under the pressure of behaviour learning challenges, and the financial burden is not helpful on top of that.

"So melatonin funding is really important to many families," Paediatric Society president David Newman said.

Dr Newman said other aspects of the package of proposed funding measures were also welcome, including azithromycin for bronchiectasis and midazolam for epilepsy.

The Aids Foundation said it was delighted about earlier access to HIV retrovirals, which would improve care and help prevent the spread of HIV.

Cancer Society medical director Chris Jackson said it was good news that people with lung cancer would get more effective treatment with pemetrexed, which he said was a "good drug".

However, he said that appeared at odds with its rating of the drug in a paper entitled Mind The Gap last year.

"And while we're pleased the drug's funded we're completely confused about why Pharmac have funded a drug they rate as near the bottom of their priority pile, Dr Jackson said.

"New Zealanders want to know that we've got access to the best cancer drugs, this decisions seems to show that the only things that really matters to Pharmac is price."

Pharmac said all of the 38 funding proposals were its own priorities for funding, not those of the government.

It said once the consultation period closed, it would review the responses and if they were approved as consulted, the changes would take effect from July this year.

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