An introduction to PHARMAC

Who are we and how we work

Making more medicines available to more New Zealanders

Every year PHARMAC makes more medicines available for more New Zealanders. We play an active role in keeping kiwis healthy by funding medicines and vaccines.

We're also becoming more involved in what medical devices the government funds. This includes things such as insulin pumps for people with diabetes, as well as devices used in hospitals, such as cotton swabs, orthopaedic implants, home dialysis machines or MRI scanners.

Globally, New Zealand is a small player, representing just 0.1% of the medicines market. Yet PHARMAC pays some of the lowest prices in the world for medicines. This is because we negotiate with, and encourage competition between, pharmaceutical companies to reduce their prices.

Each year, we receive a fixed budget from the Government to achieve the best health outcomes for New Zealanders by:

  • making sure the medicines and devices already available stay available, and
  • deciding which other medicines have the highest priority for new funding.

Right now, around 3.7 million New Zealanders a year use funded medicines. More people getting the medicines they need, to help them live better, healthier lives. That’s what PHARMAC is all about.

What else does PHARMAC do?

We fund medicines for people with exceptional circumstances

PHARMAC may approve funding a medicine to meet an individual person’s health needs, in exceptional circumstances. For example, they may want to use a medicine that isn’t funded at all, or that is funded for other uses but not for that person’s particular health condition.

The main way we do this is through a process called a Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA), where their doctor will make an application to PHARMAC. 

We manage vaccines in New Zealand

We manage funding and supply of all Government-funded vaccines in New Zealand.

This includes all vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule, which are offered free in the childhood immunisation schedule. It also includes the annual influenza vaccine which is offered free to eligible people and various other vaccines used to manage disease outbreaks.

Vaccination is one of the areas where PHARMAC plays a major role in preventing illness from spreading in our communities.

We promote medicines being used in the right way

We promote the responsible use of medicines in New Zealand. This means making sure medicines are not under-used, over-used or misused. We do this by providing information and educational material to both health professionals and the public.