Pharmac funds more medicines for New Zealanders

Media release Medicines

Pharmac funds more medicines for New Zealanders

Te Pātaka Whaioranga - Pharmac has today announced decisions to fund two new medicines and widen access to one other. These medicines provide a wide range of benefits that will support New Zealanders in living longer, healthier lives.

The medicines announced for funding today include:

  • Nusinersen (Spinraza) for the rare disorder, spinal muscular atrophy
  • Meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero) widened access for tamariki and for rangatahi living in specified close living situations
  • Oral vinorelbine (Vinorelbine Te Arai), an oral form of an anti-cancer medicine to improve access equity.

First medicine funded for the rare disorder, spinal muscular atrophy

Pharmac has approved funding of nusinersen (Spinraza) for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) a rare genetic disorder. Nusinersen is the first medicine for SMA funded in New Zealand. People aged 18 years and under who have pre-symptomatic, or symptomatic type I, II or IIIa spinal muscular atrophy, and meet certain criteria will be eligible for the treatment.

“We are really pleased to announce that this medicine will be funded for New Zealanders – it will make a substantial difference to peoples’ lives,” says Pharmac’s Director of Operations Lisa Williams. “We estimate that in the first year 30 to 50 young people will be eligible for funded treatment, and we expect the number of people receiving treatment to increase over time.

“We want to thank everyone who gave us feedback on our proposal to fund nusinersen. We have carefully considered all the elements that people commented on, including eligibility, definitions and access. We’ve made some changes to criteria as a result, and we plan to seek more clinical advice in early 2023 on the requests we received for expanded access.

“We continue to work with Rare Disorders NZ, our Rare Disorders Advisory Committee, and the wider health sector on how we continue to support the rare disorders community to access the medicines they need.”

Funding of nusinersen will begin from 1 January 2023.

Meningococcal B vaccine funded for tamariki and rangatahi

Pharmac will fund the meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero) to protect more young people against meningococcal disease. Access to the vaccine will be widened to children up to 12 months and for people aged 13 to 25 years who are entering into or in their first year of specified close-living situations. Catch-up programmes for children under five years and rangatahi already living in close-living situations will also be funded.

“We’re grateful for all of the feedback we received, and we and our sector partners will use this information to support an effective rollout of the meningococcal B vaccine in early 2023,” says Ms Williams. “Meningococcal disease has an inequitable impact on Māori and Pacific children, so we will work with Te Whatu Ora to support their implementation of the programmes to benefit Māori and Pacific people.

“We appreciate that there are other groups who could benefit from this vaccine, including people in other types of close living situations. We will be seeking advice from our clinical experts about other widened access options for people in close living situations.”

Funding for the two proposals announced today will come into effect from 1 March 2023.

Access equity benefits from oral medicine for cancer treatment

Pharmac has announced the funding of an oral version of vinorelbine, a chemotherapy medicine used to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.

“We heard from the consultation feedback that this is a more convenient treatment option and will have a positive impact for people and their whānau, particularly those who live further away from hospital. This decision will allow these people to spend less time in hospital and spend more time with their whānau, doing activities they love,” says Ms Williams. “This decision supports medicine access equity, which is an important goal for us and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Oral vinorelbine will be funded and available from 1 May 2023.

Investing in health

“Pharmac is committed to using our budget increase, announced in May 2022, to fund as many treatments on our options for investment list as possible,” says Ms Williams. “By notifying the public about these decisions today we are confirming that we have come to an agreement with the supplier and will be fully funding these medicines for New Zealanders.”

“The treatments announced today bring us to a total of 32 funding decisions since 1 July 2022 benefiting thousands of New Zealanders who use the medicines and medical devices we fund. All of our team are motivated to progress as many products as we can. We continue to work to achieve the best health outcomes for the communities of Aotearoa and are pleased to say there are more announcements coming.”

Learn more

We understand that our processes are very specific to our work, we’ve added a reminder below about the stages of our work that we commonly share with the media. We do this to help spread awareness of our activities and decisions to the wider public. Before public release of information, Pharmac shares information to stakeholders who will be impacted by announcements.


  • Once Pharmac has received clinical advice and decided a medicine or related product is something we would like to fund, we rank it on our options for investment list (OFI). We publish our prioritisation lists on our website (in alphabetical order) and we have started making regular announcements about significant changes to the OFI. We use an evidence-based approach to prioritise the options using our factors for consideration, which require us to look at health need, health benefits, suitability, and costs and savings.


  • Consultation occurs after we have reached a provisional agreement with the supplier which is conditional on public feedback and a Board (or its delegate's) decision. At this time the funding for the medicine, vaccine, or related product has not been approved. We publish consultations on our website and send them directly to interested stakeholders who have subscribed to receive them. We also announce them to the media as a way of ensuring that those who are not directly connected with us, but might be affected by the proposal, can be made aware. 
  • During consultation, we ask New Zealanders what they think about our proposal to fund the product, the eligibility criteria, the timing, and any support required to implement the decision. We work with the supplier and health sector to consider whether changes are appropriate following consideration of the feedback received.


  • Once a final decision as been made on the proposal to fund the product we will notify the public about this. If the funding is approved, there is always a period between notifying the public of the decision and commencement of funding, as the health sector generally needs time to prepare for implementation, for instance service planning and set up and ensuring sufficient stock is available in New Zealand to meet demand. 

Funding decisions to date

Since 1 July 2022, Pharmac has made 32 funding decisions including widening access to 18 already funded treatments and funding 14 new products.