PM: $5 prescriptions under TPP

John Key
John Key
Prime Minister John Key has promised that New Zealanders will continue to pay no more than $5 for subsidised prescriptions whatever happens to Pharmac under the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Mr Key made his comments to reporters in Christchurch yesterday when questioned about the latest leak of TPP text by Wikileaks, which suggests there will be greater requirements on Pharmac for transparency in its decision-making and potential for review.

"Ultimately for New Zealanders, they pay $5 for prescription drugs sponsored by Pharmac," Mr Key said.

"The Government pays any additional costs. So whatever happens as a result of TPP, New Zealanders are going to carry on paying $5 for their prescriptions."

He said again that the Government would not sign anything that undercuts Pharmac in a dramatic way.

Pharmac is the Government's bulk-drug buying agency and it estimated in its 2012 annual report it had saved New Zealand's district health boards more than $5 billion since 2000.

It essentially rations the country's medicine bill and saves taxpayer money by being able to negotiate bulk deals, often for generic drugs.

But Pharmac is seen by the United States' pharmaceutical industry as anti-competitive, lacking transparency in its decisions, limiting the range of drugs on offer to New Zealanders and not giving intellectual property and research their due rewards.

Various states within the US have similar agencies to Pharmac, but the leaked text suggests only national agencies will be subject to the TPP.

Anti-TPP campaigner and Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey said yesterday that the US pharmaceutical industry had Pharmac in its sights because it was seen as a highly successful model (for New Zealand) and did not want it replicated elsewhere in countries such as Vietnam.

- By Audrey Young of the New Zealand Herald

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