Chief Executive's foreword

Tēnā koutou,

I'm incredibly proud to present Pharmac’s Year in Review for 2021. 

Pharmac, along with the health and disability sector, has faced many challenges this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the government health reform takes shape. With crucial support from our Board, advisors, partners, and many stakeholders, the Pharmac team have managed the complexities brought on by COVID-19 and the scrutiny of an independent review.

As the pandemic continues, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health, DHBs, New Zealand Health Partnerships, suppliers, and many others in the sector to ensure New Zealanders have access to the funded medicines and medical devices they need.

In 2021, we funded 13 new medicines and widened access to 19 medicines already funded, helping more than 45,000 New Zealanders get medicines they couldn’t a year ago.

In this Year in Review, you can read about how we quickly secured treatments for COVID-19 and found suppliers or alternative medicines for around 600,000 patients that could have been impacted by global pharmaceutical company Apotex leaving the New Zealand market.

Additionally, our work towards a national list of hospital medical devices is progressing well. We met our target of having $400 million of devices under contract by the end of the 2020/21 financial year. The list of nationally contracted hospital medical devices is now more than 60 percent complete - a big milestone for Pharmac and a testament to the essential support from suppliers and DHBs. 

Another continued focus this year has been inequities in access to medicines. Māori and Pacific peoples continue to receive medicines at lower rates than others. This is unacceptable. 

While our role may be relatively small in the health and disability sector, we can still have an impact. This year, we specifically named Māori and Pacific ethnicities within the funding criteria for two new type 2 diabetes medicines – a decision that will provide significant health benefits for around 53,000 New Zealanders with the disease.

This is an exciting change for us, and we will continue to use our funding criteria to reduce barriers and target populations where we know there is evidence of inequities in access.

We will continue to use our funding criteria in the future to remove barriers and target populations where we know there is evidence of inequities in access to already funded medicines.

We are only one year into our new strategic direction and I am pleased with the progress we are making. But as we grow as an organisation, we must give further effect to Te Tiriti and strengthen how we work with Māori.

We have built up our internal Māori capability, appointed a Chief Advisor Māori to our senior leadership team, created a dedicated Te Whaioranga team, and established a Māori Rōpu to guide our senior leadership team and Board. These are fundamental steps, and particularly pertinent given the interim findings of the independent review into Pharmac released in December.

Since March 2021, the review panel has been looking at how well we perform against our statutory objectives, how transparent and timely our decision-making processes are, and how we consider equity in our decision-making.
Encouragingly, the interim findings strongly endorse our new strategic focus and our work with partners across the sector to deliver efficient, effective, and equitable access to medicines for everyone in New Zealand.

We are already working towards becoming a transparent, consumer, and equity focused organisation. Driven by Te Tiriti and our new organisational values, we continue our work to change our systems and processes to make our work faster, simpler, and more transparent.

We’re looking at short-term solutions, such as releasing our priority lists, as well as longer-term changes that could help the health and disability sector meet future challenges. 

We’ve been communicating changes to the healthcare professionals around New Zealand to ensure patients know about any changes to their medicine. And we’ve also been exploring new ways we can reach patients directly, such as through targeted awareness campaigns and community partnerships.

Before reading about some of the things I have mentioned here, I want to recognise our Board and our staff for the work they do to build Pharmac into the best organisation it can be. I want to extend this thanks to our kaumatua, Bill Kaua, ONZM, for his time, expertise, and guidance.

I also want to thank everyone who has provided clinical, technical, and consumer advice to us throughout the year – with your insights, often personal stories, we can make the most informed decisions.

We work with a huge range of stakeholders, from healthcare professionals and DHBs to technical experts and international suppliers. I want to thank everyone we work with for enabling Pharmac to get the best health outcomes from New Zealand’s investment in medicines and medical devices.

Ngā mihi 

Sarah Fitt
Chief Executive