Australians have better and faster access to medicines than New Zealanders, new study shows

A new study comparing access to prescription medicines in New Zealand with that in Australia highlights the alarming deficiencies of the medicines system across the Tasman, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said today.

The research, published this week in The New Zealand Medical Journal, found that New Zealanders have access to less than half the number of prescription medicines that Australians can access.

It also found that new medicines gain regulatory approval on average nine months sooner in Australia, and are listed for Government subsidy almost three years earlier.

Dr Shaw said the study illustrated the dangers of doing healthcare on the cheap.

“This study provides clear and compelling evidence why Australia should not be emulating the New Zealand model for subsidising prescription medicines,” Dr Shaw said.

“It shows that in the past 10 years New Zealand patients have had access to less than half the number of new medicines that Australians have had.

“That is a very sobering statistic at a time when some commentators are suggesting that management of Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme should be guided by the New Zealand model.

“The evidence highlights the fact that there are simply no subsidised medicines available at all in New Zealand in a number of therapeutic areas, and a disturbing lack of treatment options in many others.

“This is a direct result of the policies and processes adopted by New Zealand to assess and reimburse medicines there.

“That’s what happens when you don’t invest in healthcare and your primary focus is on cost-cutting. As the Australian Government’s decision to defer the listing of medicines on the PBS earlier this year shows, it’s not a situation that Australian patients either want or tolerate.

“This journal article confirms what we already knew. New Zealand is a basket case when it comes to access to medicines.

“It’s time to ‘call it’ for those recommending Australia adopt New Zealand’s reimbursement policies. For years we have heard suggestions that Australia should run its medicines reimbursement system like New Zealand.

“Typically these advocates fail to mention that New Zealanders do not have access to many of the treatments available in Australia, or have to wait three years longer than Australians for the ones they do have.

“This study proves the way New Zealand has kept costs down is by denying patients access to a range of treatments that Australian patients and doctors take for granted.

“With the Australian Government’s MYEFO and 2012 Budget in preparation, this study is a timely reminder that programs like the PBS are more than just a line item in the Budget. It’s an investment in people’s health.

“The last place health policymakers in this country should be looking for ideas is across the Tasman.”

The study corroborates a separate International Report on Access to Medicines released last year in Canada which ranked Australia in the bottom third of OECD countries by many measures, and ranked New Zealand amongst the worst in the OECD.


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