Progesterone to be fully funded for all who need it
Pharmac has today confirmed that it is removing all funding restrictions from progesterone, with tens of thousands of New Zealanders expected to benefit from access to the hormone replacement therapy.
“Up until now progesterone has been funded only for the prevention of pre-term labour in certain clinical circumstances,” says Pharmac’s director of operations Lisa Williams. “Following our recent Budget increase, we are pleased to be able to fund progesterone without restrictions, meaning it will be funded when prescribed for any use. This would include the treatment of menopausal symptoms, and for the prevention of recurrent early pregnancy loss.
“We received overwhelming support to open list progesterone from those in the healthcare sector and consumers” says Ms Williams.
Isis McKay from Women’s Health Action says they are supportive of Pharmac funding progesterone without restriction.
“Funded access to progesterone will be particularly beneficial for people experiencing symptoms of menopause, who have made an informed decision to try progesterone,” says Ms McKay. “We also believe that this decision aligns with Pharmac's Māori Responsiveness Strategy and Strategic Direction, and will help address issues of equity, and it may be particularly beneficial to Māori women.
“Research shows that, despite experiencing the same level of symptoms relating to menopause, wahine Māori are less likely to be using or to have ever used hormone replacement therapy” says Ms McKay. “This may be due to many factors including personal choice; however, we do know that inequity plays a part here. We know that cost is a significant barrier for people when accessing primary health care and medication, we also know there are inequities in how medicines are dispensed.”
“While Pharmac funds a number of hormone replacement therapies, we know that Māori and Pacific peoples are currently under-represented in accessing them,” says Ms Williams. “We want to ensure there is equitable access to menopause hormone treatment for Māori and Pacific peoples, and hope that this step of widening funded access to naturally derived progesterone will help with that.
“We’re really grateful for the time people took to respond to our consultation,” says Ms Williams. “We heard how supportive people were about the wide availability of progesterone and we were pleased to hear the positive impacts this decision will have on New Zealanders.”
Unrestricted funding will start from 1 December 2022.
The funded brand of progesterone will continue to be Utrogestan, supplied by Pharmaco. The widening of access to progesterone was reviewed and supported by the Endocrinology Advisory Committee, the Reproductive and Sexual Health Advisory Committee and PTAC. You can read records of their advice on our website.
So far, this financial year (1 July 2022 - 30 June 2023) Pharmac has made 22 new investments:
- The Combined Pharmaceutical Budget (CPB) has funded four new treatments and widened access to 14 medicines.
- The COVID-19 Recovery & Relief Fund (CRRF) has funded one new COVID-19 treatment and widened access to four treatments currently available.