Dr Jane Thomas confirmed as Pharmac’s first wahine Māori Chair of expert advisory committee

Media release Medicines
Dr Thomas stands in surgical scrubs in front of medical equipment. Her hat says "Dr Jane Anaesthetist".
Dr Jane Thomas

Pharmac’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt has announced today the appointment of Dr Jane Thomas as Pharmac’s new Chair of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC). 

Jane (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is the first wahine and first Māori chair of PTAC, as well as a paediatric anaesthetist and pain medicine specialist working at Starship Children’s Hospital and The Auckland Regional Pain Service. After spending nine years on PTAC Jane will become Chair in December 2021.

“We are delighted Jane has accepted the appointment of Chair,” says Sarah. “She brings a wealth of experience from her more than 20 years at Starship Hospital, where she continues to work today, and brings huge passion for equity in health outcomes.”

Pharmac is well supported by the expert advice of PTAC. This committee is made up of senior clinicians who work closely with 22 specialist advisory committees. Together, approximately 230 of New Zealand’s leading clinical experts help Pharmac ensure that the clinical needs of Kiwis are met.

“I originally joined PTAC to really make a difference,” Jane says. “We have some robust discussions and it's hard work. But the results of our efforts speak for themselves when Pharmac funds medicines. We know that we’re helping New Zealanders on a large scale by ensuring their tax dollars are spent appropriately to provide the best range of medicines for all people in Aotearoa. That’s a real joy.”

As a highly trained anaesthetist and pain medicine specialist, Jane offers advice based on direct clinical experience with her patients.

“We often have to be pragmatic and understand the bigger picture when considering funding of medicines, but in being part of PTAC, my knowledge which comes from interacting face-to-face with Kiwis in need of help is what’s so important and useful to the whole PTAC process.”

While Pharmac is responsible for the negotiation, procurement, and commercial contracts involved when funding medicines, it’s PTAC and its specialist advisory committees which offers this critical clinical guidance.

For Jane, this is where her passion for equity in health outcomes stems.

“Pharmac and PTAC are really pushing for equitable outcomes for all New Zealanders. I’m truly honoured and grateful to be in a position where I can help alleviate some of these inequities through PTAC’s recommendations to Pharmac.”

“I am proud to be whakapapa Māori, and to be a woman who can bring an entirely new perspective to the chair position. Without a doubt, I’m committed to supporting and upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Through the real, tangible incorporation of the values of Te Tiriti, I hope to see the improvement of outcomes for Māori, Pasifika, and other groups facing health disparity.” Jane replaces Dr Mark Weatherall who has served on PTAC since 2008 and as PTAC’s Chair since 2015.

“We thank Mark for the huge wealth of experience he brought to Pharmac’s decision making as a member and the Chair of PTAC,” says Sarah. “Mark is a strong advocate for science and always earned the respect of other clinicians with his ability to interpret complex clinical trial data in all areas, and then put it into context of the New Zealand population and health setting.”

“We are pleased to confirm that he will continue to work with us on our Haematology and Neurology Advisory Committees.”