Pharmac joins international collaboration to advance use of health technology assessments

Media release Hospital devices Medicines

Pharmac has joined an international collaboration of government health technology assessment (HTA) agencies. Together with partners from Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, we're working to make health systems better by sharing HTA knowledge and expertise.

“Partnering with world-leading HTA agencies from Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada is a milestone for us as we reach 30 years of providing benefits to New Zealand,” says Pharmac’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt. “By understanding the experiences of these countries and tapping into global expertise, we are better placed to anticipate challenges and ultimately improve the wellbeing of our communities.”

Health technology assessment involves the careful review of medicines, vaccines, and devices to understand how well they work, how much they cost, and what impact they are likely to have on people's lives. The assessments are unbiased and reveal health, social, economic, and ethical impacts of the considered health technology.

Pharmac is part of working groups within the collaboration, focusing on evaluating medicines and medical devices, as well as identifying new ones (horizon scanning). The collaboration also fosters discussions on up-to-date methods for health technology assessments.

Ms Fitt is delighted that Pharmac has this opportunity, “we are committed to enhancing our decision making and are aware of the importance of health technology assessments –  particularly for hospital medical devices, a critical area of our work. By joining this group and sitting at the table with other countries, we can fast-track our improvement efforts and learn how others are maximising their resources.”

Pharmac brings its unique operating model to the collaboration.

“Compared to other international agencies, we decide which pharmaceuticals to fund and manage the growing number of treatments within our fixed budget. Negotiation is an important part of our work, so we look forward to sharing our expertise in this area with the rest of the world,” says Ms Fitt.

In addition, a recent budget adjustment has integrated the previously separate COVID-19 funding for treatments and vaccines into the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget (CPB). This has made the CPB for 2023/24 just under $1.5 billion.

“The addition of the COVID-19 funds to the CPB signals the timeliness of bringing all treatments and vaccines into alignment for decision making. Considering how we employ HTA in this area is another key area for collaboration with the international agencies.”

Since Pharmac was created in 1993, the organisation has adapted to its evolving environment, and now has 30 years of experience as one of New Zealand’s longest standing health entities.

“Our initial role was to address the rapidly rising price of pharmaceuticals and create a competitive market. Over the years our remit has expanded from, community medicines, to include the national immunisation schedule, cancer medicines, hospital medicines, and hospital medical devices.”

“Pharmac’s decisions directly impact on the lives of all New Zealanders. Now along with the advice we receive from experts, the health sector, and the community we have another group of international colleagues to work with to ensure we are achieving the best outcomes we can,” concludes Ms Fitt.

Learn more

The group of international agencies in the AUS-CAN-NZ-UK Collaboration include:

  • UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
  • Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH)
  • Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC)
  • Australian Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC)
  • Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG)
  • Health Technology Wales (HTW)
  • All Wales Therapeutics and Toxicology Centre (AWTTC)
  • Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) (joined July 2023)
  • Pharmac (joined July 2023)

The international collaboration  explores priority areas like COVID-19, working with regulators (like New Zealand’s Medsafe), future-proofing of HTA systems, exploring the potential for joint clinical assessments between agencies, and sharing intelligence around developments in digital health.

Information about the AUS-CAN-NZ-UK Collaboration(external link)