Pharmac launches equity campaign for Māori and Pacific Peoples with type 2 diabetes

Media release Medicines

This month Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga – will launch a pioneering campaign, "You Are a Priority", to raise awareness about the new funding criteria which enables Māori and Pacific peoples to get diabetes medicines more easily.

Four well-known and respected Māori and Pacific personalities, who either live with type 2 diabetes or have whānau members living with the disease, will spearhead the campaign.

Bay of Plenty kaumātua Phil Merritt (Ngāti Kauwhata), rugby league star Adam Blair (Ngāpuhi), founder of Kura Kai Makaia Carr (Ngāruahine), and playwright, journalist and film-maker Aroha Awarau (Ngāti Maru, Ngati Porou, Niuean, Samoan) will all appear in a three-month campaign encouraging whānau to visit their doctor to see if the new diabetes medicines are right for them.

Carr, who has nearly 180,000 people in her social network, was motivated to spread the word of the campaign because diabetes is in her immediate whānau. "My mum has diabetes type 2, so I am reminded every day of this disease and how it effects our health," she says.

Blair has most recently been a part of the 2020 Fitbit MoveMeant Challenge to highlight the importance of movement and physical activity in both prevention and management of diabetes. "A lot of my whānau got diabetes as they got older. I reckon we are a bit stubborn when it comes to asking for help, there are resources out there to help us feel better and live a healthy lifestyle," says Blair.­­­­

Both Merritt and Awarau share their own personal experiences with type 2 diabetes in the campaign.

Awarau says the shame around having type 2 diabetes is huge. "When I had my toe amputated because of this disease, I was filled with whakamā. My lifestyle has completely changed as a result, but I need medication as well to keep healthy. It was a no-brainer for me to put my name to this campaign, because I know first-hand what happens when you don’t manage this disease properly and get the best medications," says Awarau.

At 71, Merritt is an inspiration for our kaumatua and kuia living with diabetes. "I want every person to live their best and healthiest lifestyle, so they get to enjoy their mokopuna," says Merritt.

Trevor Simpson, Chief Advisor Māori for Pharmac, says this campaign is an important step forward in equity for those most affected by diabetes.

He says they selected a broad range of whānau to connect with multiple demographics to ensure the campaign reaches as many people as possible affected by the disease.

"We have been listening. And people with diabetes, their whānau and health professionals have told us that there is a need for these medicines (empagliflozin and dulaglutide) to be funded to help manage the growing health problem of type 2 diabetes in Aotearoa," says Simpson.

Research has highlighted the disastrous outcomes facing Māori and Pacific patients. Mortality rates for Māori with type 2 diabetes is seven times higher than non-Māori and it is predicted that one in four Pacific peoples will have the disease within 20 years.

This campaign is a first for Pharmac, not only in its specific targeting of a Māori and Pasifika audience and use of different marketing channels, but also indirectly addressing equity of access through policy.

It is the first time Pharmac has explicitly included ethnicity within their Special Authority (access) criteria. This is an intentional, proactive move to address access to medicines for population groups who are at high risk of complications from type 2 diabetes.

"There are no hoops to jump through, we’re simply making it easier for people to get their medication," says Simpson.

"We know that the causes of health inequities are complex and solutions do not lie solely with the funding of medicines, or within the health system, but we also know that Pharmac has a role to play in making sure everyone gets the benefits from the medicines available.

"The campaign is also an opportunity for us to develop a clearer understanding of how to further connect with Māori and Pacific communities about future medicines as we continue to address equity issues.

"It aligns with Pharmac’s new five central values: Whakarongo (Listen), Tūhono (Connect), Wānanga (Learn together), Māia (Courage), Kaitiakitanga (Preserve, protect and shelter our future)" says Simpson.

The list price for the medicines empagliflozin and dulaglutide ranges from $60 to $115 per pack. Pharmac’s new funding means people will only pay $5 for their prescription.

The campaign starts early August and runs until October, appearing on Māori TV, national newspapers, posters, digital ads, Zui panels and social media.