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Govt boosts Pharmac funding by $1.7b as inaugural medicines summit begins

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Associate Health Minister David Seymour will soon talk to media about the announcement. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government will boost Pharmac’s budget by more than $1.7 billion over the next four years, increasing the national drug purchasing entity’s overall budget to almost $6.3b.

Associate Health Minister David Seymour made the announcement while opening the country’s first ever national medicines summit held at Parliament today.

Seymour is expected to speak to media about 9.15am, which the Herald will broadcast live at the top of this story.

In an earlier statement, Seymour said he’d received advice that Pharmac required more than $400 million per year on top of existing funding to ensure medicines already funded could continue to be provided.

He then went on to criticise Labour’s election policy to increase Pharmac’s budget by roughly $250m per annum over four years.

“This lack of funding jeopardised New Zealanders by potentially causing Pharmac to delist medicines, thereby reducing access to vital healthcare.

“The Government is committed to providing New Zealanders with greater access to the medicines they need. Pseudoephedrine cold and flu medicines will be on shelves within weeks, we’ve streamlined Pharmac’s approval processes so it can assess a funding application at the same time Medsafe is assessing the application for regulatory approval, and we’re committed to faster approvals within Medsafe for products already approved by at least two overseas regulatory agencies recognised by New Zealand.”

During the election, National promised to roll back Labour’s policy for universal free prescription fees and use the money from reinstating them to fund 13 new cancer drugs, at a cost of $280m.

Today’s summit was co-hosted by Patient Voice Aotearoa and Medicines New Zealand and was an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss issues pertaining to medicine access for New Zealand patients.

Former Deputy PM named Pharmac chair

Former Deputy Prime Minister and National minister Paula Bennett was appointed the new chair of Pharmac yesterday, ending speculation of her plans to run for Auckland Mayor.

Seymour said Bennett “will lead the Pharmac board in managing the pharmaceutical schedule and driving greater efficiencies and access to medicine for New Zealanders.

“Globally, changes in medicine are making them more useful and presenting new opportunities for our health, while at the same time presenting new challenges that need to be navigated,” Seymour said.

“I’m confident that Paula has the leadership qualities that will make her the best person to make the decisions needed to ensure that Pharmac is world-leading.”

During her 15-year career in politics, Bennett served as Deputy Prime Minister, and a Cabinet Minister, with portfolios including Social Development, Associate Finance, State Services, Social Housing, Police, Local Government, and Tourism.

Since she retired from national politics in 2020, Bennett has been working in an advisory role for Bayleys’ senior management team as a strategic advisory director for Bayleys commercial and industrial division.

Earlier this year, she said she had been considering running for the mayor of Auckland.

“I’m kind of keeping my powder dry, sure people are talking about it but I’m just saying ‘I don’t know’,” said Bennett.

Two senior political sources initially told the Herald they had heard Bennett was planning to run for the chains of the Super City.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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