Māori uptake of medicines

Research shows Māori continue to receive medicines in the community at a lower rate than non-Māori. This means Māori people are not able to benefit from the health system in the same way as non-Māori people and this is a concern.

The research, commissioned by PHARMAC, is an update of work initially published in 2013, which used 2006/07 Ministry of Health medicines dispensing data. Both reports account for differences in age and disease severity between populations.

Read the 2013 paper on the New Zealand Medical Journal website(external link)

The updated report using 2012/13 Ministry of Health dispensing data signals that, while there has been improvement in some areas, there continue to be inequities in Māori use of medicines.

The updated research signals that:

  • large inequities continue − compared with 2006/07, Māori remain overall much less likely to access dispensed medicine than non-Māori
  • Māori access to medicines remains lower despite their health need being higher – leading to greater inequities in health. This was seen in chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.

We don’t think this situation is acceptable, despite the work that PHARMAC and others in the health sector have done to try and address these issues. It shows that we still have work to do. We think every person in New Zealand should be able to have the same access to the funded medicines they need.

PHARMAC is committed to eliminating inequities in access to medicines as one of our priorities. We will be working with our partners in the health sector to identify barriers and underlying causes of these inequities and acting to improve use of medicines in this area. This includes investigating areas of PHARMAC’s decision-making, to ensure our own processes aren’t contributing to inequities.


Follow-up: Te Wero tonu—the challenge continues: Māori access to medicines 2006/07–2012/13 update(external link)

Abstract: This paper summarises a commissioned update, by the University of Auckland for 2012/13, of previous research on the shortfall in community medicines dispensed for Māori compared with non-Māori, adjusting for age, population and burden of disease—and what PHARMAC and the health sector needs to do about it. Although complexities and limitations affect interpretation, substantial and unacceptable inequities in medicines access for Māori remain, and are unchanged six years on. Their causes are likely many, complex and entrenched, needing an all-of-sector approach and beyond to address. Deeper understanding of systems and barriers is required, as well as pragmatic ways to monitor outcomes. PHARMAC is committed to eliminating inequities in access to medicines as one of its key priorities; everyone in the health sector has a role.