Pharmac prescription drug spending since 2010

OIA response

Thank you for your request dated 13 November 2023 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for information relating to prescription drug spending. Each part of your request is responded to below:

I'd like a year-on-year breakdown of total spending on prescription drugs by New Zealand since 2010, and also figures from the year 2003 and 2007. 

Pharmac’s total gross combined pharmaceutical budget (CPB) spending and total net CPB expenditure is outlined in the Pharmac annual reports. The annual reports for each financial year from 1999/2000 to 2022/23 are publicly available on the Pharmac website. 

Please note, Pharmac only holds data for Pharmac funded prescription medicines. Therefore, any information relating to spending on unfunded medicines is refused under section 18(g) of the OIA.

Could you also take the last full year's recorded spend, and break that down into categories for condition - in particular I am interested in medications required to treat chronic disease, particularly - heart disease, cancer and diabetes. 

 A breakdown of the gross cost of the requested categories are appended to this letter as Tables 1 and 2.

Please note the below when considering these data:

  • The Diabetes(external link) and Diabetes Management(external link) are subgroups that are part of the Alimentary Therapeutic Group. There may be other funded medicines for management of diabetes related complications that are not captured in these subgroups. 
  • As above, please refer to the Pharmaceutical Schedule for all of the agents that the Cardiovascular System Therapeutic group(external link).  Note these may not all be used to treat cardiovascular disease as there are many other indications for these treatments not directly related to cardiovascular disease.
  • As above, please refer to the Pharmaceutical Schedule for all of the agents the Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants(external link) Therapeutic Group. Again, these may not be used to only treat cancer as there are other indications for these not directly related to cancer.

 In regard to cancer treatment, could you provide a separate breakdown year-on-year since 2010 for the amount spent on chemotherapy, radiation and other cancer treatments... also for the years 2003 and 2007.

The gross cost for the Therapeutic Group for Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants from the years 2003 to 2007 and 2010 to 2022 is appended to this letter as Table 3. Please note that from 2006, Pharmac began recording spend on Pharmaceutical Cancer Treatments

(PCT) data in hospitals.

As above, please note the total gross cost under this group is not attributable to only treat cancer, as there are other indications for these treatments not directly related to cancer.

You may be interested in a published paper by the Manatū Hauora (the Ministry of Health) titled "The Price of Cancer’(external link), which details relevant information. 

We trust that this information answers your queries. Please note, you have the right to make a complaint to the Ombudsman about our response to your OIA, under section 28(3) of the OIA. Details of how to make a complaint(external link) are on the Ombudsman’s website.

To make information more freely available, we publish selected OIA responses (excluding personal details) on our website. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about this.

Table 1: Gross spend on medicines by therapeutic category in 2023

Therapeutic Category

Gross Cost

Alimentary Tract and Metabolism


Blood and Blood Forming Organs


Cardiovascular System




Extemporaneously Compounded Preparations and Galenicals


Genito-Urinary System


Hormone Preparations - Systemic Excluding Contraceptive Hormones


Infections - Agents for Systemic Use


Musculoskeletal System


National Immunisation Schedule


Nervous System


Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants


Respiratory System and Allergies


Sensory Organs


Special Foods




 Please note, the figures above represent gross drug cost for the financial year of 2023, as per the forecasted spend in the Pharmac annual report for the financial year of 2023.

Table 2: Gross spend by sub-therapeutic group for diabetes in 2023

Diabetes Sub-Therapeutic Group

Gross Cost

Diabetes Management




 Please note, the diabetes group is a subgroup of the Alimentary Tract and Metabolism therapeutic category.

Table 3: Gross spend on Oncology and Immunosuppressants

Financial Year

Therapeutic Group

Gross Cost


Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants



Oncology Agents and Immunosuppressants


Please note, the figures above represent the gross drug cost as per actual dispensing in the financial year of 2023, as at 8 December 2023.