3 Aug 2010

Pharmac to review special funding schemes

10:00 am on 3 August 2010

New Zealand drug-buying agency Pharmac is to review schemes that enable individuals to apply for special funding for medicines that are not publicly funded.

The review of the Exceptional Circumstances schemes was announced on Monday.

Pharmac administers three schemes designed to offer access to community, hospital and cancer drugs for individuals who can demonstrate that they meet exceptional circumstances criteria.

Applicants often have rare conditions or clinical circumstances that make standard treatment unsuitable and the medicines can be expensive.

In the most recent year for which information is available (2008-09), Pharmac received almost 3200 applications under the schemes, 77% of which it approved.

A review of the schemes has been in the pipeline since 2008.

Pharmac says it is not proposing any specific changes, although a recent review of access to high-cost and highly specialised medicines suggested that the three schemes be merged. Submissions are being sought until early September.

Access to Medicines Coalition says the review is a step in the right direction.

Spokesperson John Forman says one condition of funding at present is that there must be no more than 10 people in New Zealand with the condition. He believes that is too tight and there is insufficient funding for approvals.