PHARMAC announces exciting opportunities for improved health from $39 million budget boost

Media release

PHARMAC is today opening consultations on seven new treatments across a wide range of health areas, says PHARMAC Chief Executive Steffan Crausaz.

This follows the Government’s 2016 Budget announcement increasing PHARMAC’s medicines budget by an additional $39 million for next year, on top of $11 million already set. The total amount of new money announced by the Government today is $124 million over four years.

“This increase comes after a robust medicines budget process, during which PHARMAC advised that there are a number of good medicine funding opportunities, to significantly increase health outcomes for New Zealanders,” says Mr Crausaz.

“The proposals have been generated through PHARMAC’s evidence-based approach with successful commercial negotiations with the suppliers. This is the start of a series of proposals, which will include other new investments in the near future.”

Consultation is open today on:

“The total package includes innovative and high cost medicines, underscoring the flexibility of the PHARMAC model,” says Mr Crausaz.

“PHARMAC has worked constructively with suppliers to reduce the cost of the funding proposals. At their list price, before PHARMAC’s negotiation, the proposals would have cost about $180m each year, far in excess of the budget increase.

“By negotiating with suppliers, including to make savings on medicines already funded, the level of required funding has been reduced by well over $100m each year.

“We are seeking feedback on these proposals by 25 May 2016. Final decisions will be made by the PHARMAC Board in time for implementation from as early as 1 July 2016.

“Funding medicines that help people live longer and better lives is what PHARMAC is all about.”

The consultation documents are available on the PHARMAC website,


Contact: Anthony Bull – 0278 075 075

Further information

Advanced melanoma – proposal to fund nivolumab

Advanced melanoma is a serious illness affecting about 350 people each year.

New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. Treatments for advanced melanoma are a developing area of medicine.

The proposal to fund nivolumab (brand name Opdivo) reflects the quality of the clinical trials, more certain survival data obtained through those trials, and the overall value achieved through commercial negotiations with the supplier Bristol Myers Squibb.

PHARMAC remains open-minded to funding other treatments for melanoma and other types of cancer. PHARMAC will pay close attention to new data and market developments to ensure the best possible funding decisions for New Zealand are made.

Hepatitis C – proposal to fund two treatments

Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting over 50,000 New Zealanders. Many patients will progress to life-threatening disease, including liver cancer and liver failure.

The proposal to fund Harvoni will benefit all patients with hepatitis C infection with end-stage liver disease.

PHARMAC is also proposing to fund Viekira Pak to benefit up to 27,500 patients who have the type of hepatitis C that responds to this product.

Both of these treatments are a major advancement in the treatment of hepatitis C, with cure rates of more than 90% with as little as 12 weeks treatment.

PHARMAC continues to explore more options to widen treatment coverage for those with hepatitis C.


More information on how PHARMAC makes funding decisions can be found on PHARMAC's website.

Summary of total proposal package

Anti-infective treatments
Medicine Indication Patients Additional information
Harvoni Hepatitis C
  • All genotypes
  • Restricted to those with severe liver disease
1,400 over five years Over 50,000 people have Hepatitis C in New Zealand – 30,000 aren’t diagnosed.

Untreated, the Hepatitis C virus can cause severe liver disease, including liver cancer and liver failure.

These two Hepatitis C treatments are major advances, with cure rates in excess of 90%
Viekira Pak Hepatitis C
  • Genotype 1 – approximately 57% of people with Hepatitis C in New Zealand have genotype 1
  • Available from early stages of disease
Up to 27,500
Azithromycin Expanded access to include treatment of children with non-CF related bronchiectasis (lung disease). 838 Bronchiectasis results in a chronic wet cough, which can lead to a chronic bacterial infection and inflammation. If this progresses, this may lead to respiratory failure and the need for a lung transplant.
Cancer and immunosuppressant treatments
Medicine Indication Patients Additional information
Nivolumab (Opdivo) Metastatic melanoma 350 Our clinical advice has said that the nivolumab application contained well designed clinical studies, and it has demonstrated overall survival improvements.

In our view, the commercial terms were also significantly more favourable than that offered by other suppliers.  We are open to further negotiations with other suppliers of these types of treatments.
Temozolomide Expanded access to cover brain tumours and neuroendocrine tumours 245 Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) is the umbrella term for a group of unusual, often slow-growing cancers. They are particularly concentrated in the gastrointestinal system, lung, pancreas, ovary and testes.

The proposal also extends coverage for those with metastatic brain tumours. When used in combination with other treatments, temozolomide may improve survival and quality of life in some patients.
Rituximab Expanded access to be funded in DHB hospitals for children with nephrotic syndrome 10 Nephrotic syndrome (NS) is a kidney disorder that, in children, can result in great increased risk for developing end stage renal disease.
Medicine Indication Patients Additional information
Oestradiol patches Expanded access for menopausal women – no restrictions 11,762 A form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used for the treatment of adverse effects associated with menopause and post-menopause.