Medicine prescribing hits new high as PHARMAC role expands

Media release Medicines

New Zealanders have gained greater access to medicines in 2013, and record numbers of New Zealanders received funded medicines in the past year.

PHARMAC’s 2012/13 Annual Review, published today, reveals that 3.4 million New Zealanders received a funded medicine in the past year, the highest number ever. And the number of funded prescription items has also continued to grow, to a record 42.2 million.

PHARMAC chief executive Steffan Crausaz says this high level of medicine access has occurred while PHARMAC has continued to manage pharmaceutical funding within budget, and grown the scope of its work to incorporate vaccines and hospital medicines. Combined Pharmaceutical Budget spending rose to $783.6 million for the year.

Writing in the Annual Review, Steffan Crausaz says there has been growing commentary recognising PHARMAC’s consistent approach and the long-term benefits, including a report by the Grattan Institute in Australia, and from the Government’s chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman.

“It’s a notable observation from Sir Peter that PHARMAC’s consistent and methodical approach to the use of evidence is one of the factors underpinning its success,” writes Steffan Crausaz.

“As Sir Peter notes, over time this has fostered acceptance and trust in PHARMAC’s work. People don’t always agree with us, but they do recognise the rationale behind the decisions we make. In turn, this has paved the way for PHARMAC to take on the wider role now entrusted to it by Government.”

Steffan Crausaz says PHARMAC’s methods will be even more important as it beds in new expanded roles. In the past year, PHARMAC has successfully absorbed the national immunisation schedule within the funding it manages, and also manages all funded hospital medicines.

“Now that PHARMAC is taking on a wider role the relevance of the PHARMAC approach comes even more sharply into focus,” he writes.

“An even larger piece of work is now underway, involving hospital medical devices. While medicines number in the thousands, devices number in the tens of thousands.”

“How PHARMAC adjusts and adapts its policies and procedures will be critical to our success in medical devices. We want to hold onto the strengths that are at the heart of our success, but be adaptable to recognise that, when it comes to hospital medical devices, the same approach won’t be right for everything.”

Key facts from the 2013 Annual Review:

  • Vaccines, community and cancer pharmaceutical funding managed on budget - $783.6 million
  • 60 new investments in pharmaceuticals (up from 24 the previous year)
  • 20 new pharmaceuticals listed (up from 14 the previous year)
  • 52,000 New Zealanders to benefit from funding decisions in a full year
  • 42.2 million prescription items funded
  • 3.4  million New Zealanders received subsidised medicines
  • 300 people attended our Community Forums

The Annual Review also comments on trends in medicine usage, including:

  • Cancer medicines – a continued shift towards oral treatments, making treatment for cancer more convenient for patients and less resource-intensive for hospitals
  • Complementary technologies – combinations of pharmaceuticals with diagnostic tests to enable `personalised medicine’, enabling people most likely to benefit to be identified
  • Contraceptives – a decline in oral contraceptives coinciding with ongoing uptake of long-acting contraceptive implants
  • Four medicines, used by about 0.18% of funded patients, account for about 12% of all pharmaceutical funding
  • Paracetamol and low-dose aspirin continue to be the most-prescribed funded medicines in NZ
  • The rheumatology and auto-immune disorder treatment adalimumab (Humira) is the highest-grossing pharmaceutical on the Pharmaceutical Schedule, accounting for $52.5 million of spending (before rebates).