Consumers poorly served by NZ medicines system

A report comparing the Australian medicines system with that of New Zealand highlights why Australian policymakers should not seek to emulate the New Zealand model, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said today.

The report by Medicines New Zealand shows that in June 2012 Australian patients had access to 94 more prescription medicines than New Zealanders.

The report also shows that New Zealand spends significantly more on healthcare as a proportion of GDP than Australia.

“What this report clearly shows is that patients would be worse off if Australia adopted a New Zealand-style access to medicines policy,” Dr Shaw said.

“For all the recent debate we’ve had in Australia about cutting healthcare costs and adopting a New Zealand model, it’s very clear that patients across the Tasman just aren’t getting the access to medicines they need.

“That’s what happens when a healthcare system focuses on cost containment at the expense of health outcomes. Australians deserve better than that.

“Historically, the Australian system has been able to provide a range of treatment options and newer medical technologies for patients than has the New Zealand system.

“The higher level of spending on overall health in New Zealand might reflect the fact they don’t invest enough in new medicines in their health system. There have been a number of studies over the years showing that the more a country invests in newer medicines, the less it spends in overall healthcare.

“Late last year the US Congressional Budget Office concluded that a 1 per cent increase in the number of prescriptions filled causes US Medicare spending to drop by roughly 0.2 per cent.”

The Medicines New Zealand report concluded that health authorities in New Zealand   “… try to further constrain cost-effective spending on medicines in order to continue their own spending on interventions that are often less cost effective.

“A better approach to allocating the medicines budget would result in a more efficient health system overall, while allowing New Zealanders to get closer to Australia in medicines access.”


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