More medicines for more New Zealanders

  • Spinraza to be funded for young people with spinal muscular atrophy.
  • Free meningococcal vaccine for more people.
  • Capsule instead of intravenous chemotherapy for hundreds of cancer patients.

The Government is welcoming news that more important medicines are to be publicly funded, thanks to a major increase in the budget of the national medicines-buying agency Pharmac.

“Today’s announcement that Pharmac will fully fund Spinraza for people under the age of 18 is great news,” Health Minister Andrew Little said.

“Spinraza is the first medicine for spinal muscular atrophy to be funded, and has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of the young people who receive it.

“Coming on top of Pharmac’s announcement on Sunday that it proposes funding Trikafta for people with cystic fibrosis, this is real evidence that the extra money we’re putting into the health system and into medicines is paying real dividends for people with rare diseases.

“Since being elected in 2017, the Labour Government has increased the pharmaceuticals budget by 43 per cent, including an extra $71 million this year and $120 million next year, making more than 200 medicines and vaccines available to more people.

“I have also directed the Ministry of Health to develop the country’s first rare disorders strategy, as recommended by the Pharmac Review panel, and I am pleased that Pharmac is using the extra funding we’ve provided to make medicines available for people with rare diseases.”

Pharmac also announced today that it is widening free access to the meningococcal B vaccine to include babies and young people living in places like hostels where they are in close contact with other people, and confirmed it will fund an oral version of a cancer medicine.

“Being able to get vinorelbine as a capsule that you can take at home instead of having to travel to a hospital for intravenous chemotherapy will make life easier for hundreds of cancer patients,” Andrew Little said.

“Vinorelbine is used to treat lung and breast cancer, as well as some non-cancerous growths, so making it available as an oral treatment will be a real benefit to rural people especially, who often find it difficult to get to places where infusion services are delivered.

“The Government’s increase in the pharmaceuticals budget since 2017 has allowed Pharmac to fund 70 new medicines and widen access to another 134, with many more to come,” Andrew Little said.