How the health priorities affect Pharmac's work

Pharmac uses the Government's health priorities when considering funding a medicine or medical device.

Minister advises health priorities

Each year, the Minister of Health advises the Government's health priorities in their Letter of Expectations to Pharmac.

2021/22 Letter of Expectations from the Minister of Health [PDF, 251 KB]

Overarching health priorities 

Priority 1: Child wellbeing

Pharmac's decisions will help improve child wellbeing and support children to have a healthy start in life.

Priority 2: Mental wellbeing

Pharmac's decisions will help improve mental wellbeing. For Pharmac, this includes treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.

Priority 3: Prevention

Pharmac's decisions will improve wellbeing by preventing health conditions.

This includes issues such as:

  • smoking cessation
  • immunising against infectious diseases
  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • sexual health.

Priority 4: Health equity

Pharmac's decisions will support better population outcomes, supported by a strong and equitable public health and disability system.

We are focused on achieving equity in health outcomes and enhancing equitable access to medicines.

This includes a specific focus on achieving pae ora (healthy futures) for Māori as Te Tiriti partners.

Read more about Te Whaioranga

Pharmac's equity priorities

  • Our priority populations include:
    • Māori
    • Pacific peoples
    • people living in high socioeconomic deprivation
    • people living in rural and isolated areas
    • people from former refugee backgrounds.
  • Our priority health conditions:
    • cardiovascular disease,
    • type 2 diabetes
    • asthma
    • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • gout.

Hauora Arotahi

Pharmac's Hauora Arotahi (Māori health areas of focus) are:

  • mental health
  • diabetes
  • heart health
  • respiratory health 
  • cancer (lung and breast).

Read more about Hauora Arotahi

Priority 5: Primary health care

Pharmac's decisions will support better population health and outcomes supported by primary care.

We are focused on strengthening primary care through making medicines available and accessible in primary care settings.

Specific health conditions

These conditions are government priorities. In addition to these priorities, PHARMAC takes into account a range of factors when making decisions.

Rare diseases

This covers conditions that meet PHARMAC’s definition of a rare disease (1:50,000 population).


We consider that this includes all cancer conditions. However, note that some specific cancers (lung and breast) have a particular focus for PHARMAC under the Hauora Arotahi Māori health areas of focus.

Long-term conditions

We consider that long-term conditions include:

  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • chronic respiratory disease
  • neurological diseases (such as dementia).

Infectious diseases

We consider that this covers both treatments for and immunisation to prevent infectious diseases.

We will also continue to promote the responsible use of antimicrobials (including antibiotics) – antimicrobial stewardship. 

More information 

Read more about what Pharmac considers when deciding whether to fund a medicine or related product.

Pharmac's Factors for Consideration