$5m for high-cost medicines

John Forman
John Forman
Pharmac has announced plans for a $5 million annual fund for certain high-cost medicines, after pressure from advocates who say drugs for rare diseases stand little chance under current funding rules.

The drug-buying agency has asked for community feedback to ''iron out'' details, but hopes to ask drug companies for proposals by the end of this year.

In a press release yesterday, chief executive Steffan Crausaz said Pharmac listened to feedback at community forums around New Zealand in the agency's funding formula review.

''We've listened closely to these views, and thought about them carefully. Our thinking leads us to the view that the core problem is a lack of competition.

''We know competition leads to lower prices, and that's an area where Pharmac has an established track record.

''We think that by promoting competition among suppliers, prices will reduce and as a result, patients will get funded access to them.''

The fund would use Pharmac's savings in other areas, and would not affect spending on other conditions.

New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders executive director John Forman, of Wellington, said when contacted he was ''not going to pop the Champagne corks just yet''.

''It's been a major problem for quite a few years now ... it would be great to think this is the beginning of a serious solution.''

At present, almost all rare disease drugs were not funded, as they did not meet criteria for cost-effectiveness.

He was pleased Pharmac accepted in principle the need for such a fund, but would like more than $5million allocated.

Yesterday's announcement was a surprise to Mr Forman, who said it seemed the ''message has finally got through''.

However, there was no guarantee it would go ahead, he said. The ''cynical view'' was that the move would neutralise a difficult issue in election year.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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