Little wants politicians not Pharmac to decide on drugs

The Herald reports:

The Government’s message to melanoma petitioners at Parliament today is to wait for the Budget when will almost certainly get an increase in its funding.

It was still Pharmac’s job to decide where the best “bang for your buck” existed, Prime Minister John Key said.

Melanoma patients at present are having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for life-saving drugs.

They and their families and supporters are preparing to hand over an 11,0000-signature petition today calling on the Government boost Pharmac’s funding so it can fund melanoma drugs.

So Pharmac will get more money but up to them to decide what drugs they spend it on.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the Pharmac model needed to be changed so that when life-saving drugs became available and there was a clear need, there should be some direction given to it.

“What we are keen to look at is tweaking the Pharmac model.”

He wanted to allow some funds to be available on a short-term basis for medicines for which full clinical evaluation might not yet be available.

He said that when a drug was available that had been proven effective in other countries “the politicians, being accountable for the use of taxpayers money should say, we want this available.”

So Andrew Little should decide, with all his specialist training, on what drugs are most effective – rather than the clinical experts at Pharmac.

UPDATE: Stuff has some interesting info:

Drug company lobbyists were hosted at a special dinner by Labour leader Andrew Little, months before Labour announced its stance to override Pharmac and fund melanoma drug Keytruda. 

Labour confirmed the dinner took place, understood to have been in Labour’s parliamentary offices, in September. 

Organised by Pharma lobbying group Medicines NZ, the dinner also included representatives from Keytruda makers Merck Sharp and Dohme, Pfizer, Roche, Healthcare Logistics and Sanofi. 

I don’t think there was anything wrong with this, but if this was National, then Labour would be claiming they are in the pockets of Big Pharma.

However the stance is a u-turn on its position during the widely-publicised Herceptin debate in 2008.

It’s understood significant ructions are forming within Labour, over the issue. It’s believed some MPs and wider party members are not pleased with the moves to interfere with Pharmac’s purchasing model. 


National got it wrong to interfere on Herceptin. They admit that now. It would be good for Labour to pull back, so we have clincial experts deciding on drug funding, not MPs.

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