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Open letter to Pharmac Review Panel

On behalf of CANGO (The Alliance of Cancer NGOs), we wrote to the Pharmac Review Panel to address our concerns about the interim report.

To the Pharmac Review Panel

On behalf of CANGO (The Alliance of Cancer NGOs) we would like to acknowledge our full support of the review of Pharmac - the first independent assessment of Pharmac since its creation over 25 years ago. We recognise the Pharmac Review Panel's difficult task in determining recommendations to Pharmac’s systems and processes.

Our organisations know that for patients and whānau, the funding of medicines and devices is crucial. Every day we see the stress caused to patients and their whānau when time is running out, when they are aware of drugs funded elsewhere (such as Australia, Canada and the UK) and when they are waiting too long for a decision from Pharmac.

We believe New Zealand is falling behind other comparable countries, and there is an ever-growing inequitable chasm between those who can and cannot afford unfunded drugs. We see first-hand the financial toxicity for patients who stretch themselves to privately access treatments considered "standard of care" in comparable universal public health care systems (such as Australia, Canada, and the UK).

We had some concerns reading the delayed interim report. The serious problems we have highlighted to the Panel need to be addressed. For example, we were concerned that the Panel was “not currently in a position to make meaningful comment about how well or otherwise Pharmac is performing” because “Pharmac zealously guards information about a host of operational and financial matters, making it difficult to measure the extent to which it is meeting its objectives” (page 19). Not only are patients and NGOs struggling to navigate Pharmac’s confusing and opaque processes, but this comment highlights that the Panel itself is having trouble getting information out of Pharmac. This reinforces that change and more transparency are essential.

We were disappointed that the interim report gave no indication of the Panel’s thinking about addressing the identified issues, and did not include draft recommendations. On behalf of all the patients we support, we urge the Panel to ensure the recommendations outlined in your final report are clear, informative, and are robust. We hope that the final report includes strong recommendations that make a difference for all New Zealanders, and will help address the inequities that plague our health system.

The Panel has not asked for submissions on its interim report, but we re-emphasise the importance of your mahi and our previous offer to support your review.

Please contact us if you would like additional information about patient, whānau or health system impacts that flow from Pharmac’s processes, or if you would like to test your thinking by working through some lived examples.

Ngā mihi nui

CANGO (The Alliance of Cancer NGOs)