Pharmac welcomes new Consumer Advisory Committee Chair and Deputy Chair

Update Kauneke Update Rērere Kōrero

This August, Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac was pleased to welcome the new CAC Chair, Dr Robyn Manuel, and Deputy Chair, Nele Kalolo. We also say goodbye to the previous CAC Chair, Lisa Lawrence.

Robyn is looking at the camera and smiling, she is a Māori woman with a moko kauae..

Twenty years ago, the Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) was established. This team of ten, made up of people with different life experiences and professional backgrounds, was brought together to give a diverse voice to everyone who uses medicines and medical devices.

Introducing Dr Robyn Manuel - the new Consumer Advisory Committee Chair

Dr Robyn Manuel (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Kurī and Te Aupōuri) has been appointed the new Chair of Pharmac’s Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC), taking over from outgoing Chair Lisa Lawrence (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruapani).

Dr Manuel has been part of CAC for three years and took over as Chair in early August 2023. Her background has been in science with a PhD in Chemistry, and growing the Māori STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) workforce. She also trained as a public health professional focusing on Māori health, epidemiology, and health promotion, and has an extensive university academic and teaching record too.

“When I first joined CAC, I was driven by seeing inequity of access to a particular cancer medication,” says Dr Manuel. “At the time, the medicine was funded for a cancer highly prevalent amongst Pākehā but not funded for a cancer with higher incidence and mortality in Māori and Pacific peoples. My aunt was self-funding the medicine and I felt that it was an obvious ethnic inequity. I needed to know how Pharmac came to the decision to fund one cancer over another, and I wanted to improve equity of access to medicines for Māori and Pacific people. So, I joined CAC to understand this process and try to make a difference.”

“One of my goals is to increase patients’ voices within the actual decision-making process. We do a great job once a funding recommendation has been made, but I think we can improve getting that patient voice earlier in the process,” says Dr Manuel. “More widely, one of my goals is to keep CAC’s diversity front and foremost. You're more likely to capture the feel of society if you have representatives from those groups sitting in the room with you. CAC needs to mirror our society in Aotearoa and hold true to our Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership.”

“I’m lucky to have worked with Lisa (Lawrence) as the chair,” says Dr Manuel. “She’s one of the best chairs I’ve ever worked with. She’s a huge loss to CAC in terms of her in-depth knowledge of Pharmac in combination with day-to-day experience in grass roots issues related to access to medicines and medical devices. We will keep building on her legacy and learning from her - her kindness, her firmness, her focus on te Tiriti, and ensuring that our committee, as much as possible, reflects our diverse society.”

Nele Kalolo looks at the camera and smiles. She wears her hair loose and straight behind her ears. She wears a red necklace over a black top. .

Introducing Nele Kalolo - the new Consumer Advisory Committee Deputy Chair

Pharmac welcomes Nele Kalolo as the new Deputy Chair of the Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC).

Kalolo brings a wide range of experience working in the health and advocacy sector, as well as first-hand insight of the importance of medicine access equity in her community. She is a multidisciplinary advocate for Māori and Pasifika youth, with various roles in the University of Auckland, Le Va, Pacific Climate Warriors, and UNICEF.

“I’m Samoan-born and South Auckland-raised,” says Kalolo. “I’ve grown up watching young people do the most for their Māori, Pasifika and ethnic minority elders who have been left out of the health system and its decision-making. So, being part of CAC is a continuation of that work – to improve medicine access and equity for marginalised people and communities.”

“In South Auckland, I saw aunties with cancer getting the bus to appointments, and people having to choose between going to the doctors and paying for petrol or bills. By joining CAC, I saw the opportunity to build my understanding of ‘how do we actually bring equity’, as well as sharing the experiences of my community too.”

“Having consumer voices involved in Pharmac’s processes is crucial. Why make a decision-making process that isn’t going to work? The health sector isn’t a marketplace, it is literally people’s lives. An effective health system is one that centres the person. And when you don’t do right for the most marginalised groups, you’re not producing a health system that’s effective for everyone’s needs.”

“In my role as deputy chair, I want to do the best I can to support the new chair, Dr Robyn Manuel, and keep CAC on the great trajectory it's on. [Outgoing chair] Lisa Lawrence did such an amazing job of bridging the gap between consumers, their communities, and Pharmac. I know from my own experiences how important that is, and so I’m excited to continue this work on CAC.”

This story is part of our Kauneke Update 

The Kauneke Update will keep you informed on important news and progress towards Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac's strategic goals. In te reo Māori, kauneke means to develop and move forward.