Quality over quantity more important in health outcomes

Media release Medicines

When it comes to making a difference in people’s lives, it’s not about how many medicines you have, but having the ones that work, says PHARMAC Chief Executive Steffan Crausaz.

The Mind the Gap study – comparing access to cancer medicines in New Zealand and Australia – shows that more medicines doesn’t automatically mean better health outcomes.

“The study shows that not all cancer medicines deliver benefits that can be considered clinically meaningful, or an improvement on what we already have,” says Mr Crausaz.

“PHARMAC’s evidence-based approach means we make the best choices to fund treatments that add real value to patients. Treatments that are funded improve on what we already have – we don’t waste precious health resources on treatments that don’t deliver value or simply don’t add anything to what we already have.”

PHARMAC commissioned the ‘Mind the Gap’ research in response to commentary that suggested access to cancer medicines in New Zealand resulted in poorer health outcomes compared to Australia.

“PHARMAC’s job is to fund medicines that help people get better and stay better. Clinical evidence and expert clinical advice help us achieve this, and the research shows that this approach means we’re not missing out on opportunities to improve cancer survival rates,” says Mr Crausaz.

The analysis indicates that, out of the 35 cancer medicines not funded in New Zealand, only three offer clinically meaningful benefits. PHARMAC has already funded one of them, pertuzumab, for breast cancer, and is considering funding applications for the two others.

A further 17 medicines funded in Australia provide only moderate or poor benefits, and five potentially caused worse health outcomes compared to currently funded treatments in New Zealand.

“While there were some limitations to the study, described in the report, the results are clear – very little, if anything, can be concluded about medicines access and health outcomes through a simple count of the number of funded medicines,” says Mr Crausaz.

“We could spend the $130m each and every year to fund the same cancer treatments that Australia does, but we’d know that much of that wouldn’t provide improvements to what we already have, and that we’d be missing out on other opportunities across all treatment options.

“Making these careful choices, focussed on best health outcomes, is what drives us at PHARMAC to do the best for New Zealand.”

Further information on the Mind the gap research can be found on the PHARMAC website.

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