A leak last year from the Peru round of the TPPA negotiations indicated that the United States pharmaceutical industry regard neutralising PHARMAC as one of its principle priorities. They have claimed that by keeping costs of medicines low to consumers PHARMAC compromises their “intellectual property rights” and reduces the profits the industry makes from drugs in this country and that it represents a threatening model of state control of pharmaceutical supply.
PHARMAC has saved New Zealand taxpayers $5 billion since it was established twelve years ago. American Pharmaceutical companies gouge billions of dollars from patients every year through overcharging for their products in the US. Their avowed intention is to do the same here.
In case you are wondering what that means for your medication budget here are some comparisons of drug costs drawn from the current list of the world’s top selling medications
90 days’ supply -USD cost to patient
USA NZ Treatment
Lipitor $610 Funded * Cholesterol
Diazoxide $229 Funded Diabetes
Plavix $ 600 Funded Blood thinner
Singulair $498 Funded Asthma
Candesartan $398 Funded Ace Inhibitor
Gleevec $7000 Funded Cancer
*Plus GP and Pharmacy Co- Payment
Auckland DHB is the institution with statutory responsibility for delivering health services in our city and region. If as a result of our Government signing up to the TPPA Aucklander’s could be paying vast increases for their drugs. It must surely be a critical obligation for Auckland’s DHB to step forward now and publicly demand information from the MOH so it is able inform Auckland’s public health users what to expect.
Exactly what Auckland’s DHB is doing to help its population understand the undeclared risks they are facing in the management of their healthcare is disturbingly clear – nothing.
Stacked with National supporting directors the Auckland District Health Board is a kind of chums club instinctively averse to rocking anyone’s boat particularly when it might mean undermining National Party support in Auckland .
Our government claims its objective is to gain greater access for NZ product to the American dairy market but even to attempt this would require a massive trade-off for New Zealand – PHARMAC is the obvious choice for such a trade-off. The fact is the chance of NZ making any headway in the US dairy market is laughable given the strength of the Agricultural lobby in Washington.
If the New Zealand government’s intention is to allow US Pharmaceutical companies to force up the price of medicines in New Zealand – while it attempts to increase farmers’ incomes through increased access to the US food market would be morally reprehensible – it will also cause a social and political disaster
It isn’t only US pharmaceuticals who are licking their chops over the prospect of PHARMACS demise, American and Australian health insurance companies are also likely to benefit from more business as healthy consumers join private insurance schemes as a hedge for the time they may need to access high priced medication – just as happens in the US the country with the worst performing most expensive health system in the OECD .
If you are wondering just how profitable the US Pharmaceutical industry is – it tops the Forbes 500 consistently with a whopping 17% return on revenue. Lipitor – the world’s top selling drug alone netted Pfizer $13.5 Billion last year
Since PHARMAC’s inception the American pharmaceutical industry has maintained an utterly hostile position toward its role and activities – the TPPA negotiations have presented the opportunity to get rid of PARMAC once and for all. They are gunning for it and that means very bad news for medical consumers in Auckland.
The fact is large majority of Aucklanders – particularly low income people do not have health insurance and will never qualify to get it. That means vast numbers of people could be in peril of being unable to afford the vicious costs of medication were PHARMAC to be disbanded or controlled by US Pharmaceutical companies.
The flippant assurances from a widely mistrusted Prime Minister that PHARMAC will suffer no “fundamental” changes are at best disingenuous at worst deeply cynical. Auckland’s DHB should be the leading advocate in holding the Government and Ministry of Health accountable in informing the public just exactly what it is the Americans are demanding. In the US the core maxim for patient access to medication is – pay or die – that is exactly what New Zealand’s consumers will face if the Government trades away PHARMAC .
City Vision Health’s policy is to defend the right of PHARMAC to provide high quality medications at low or no cost to its Auckland patients
Brent Morrissey, City Vision Candidate, ADHB 2013
“Pharmacy Checker “- Online Pharmacy price checker
Dr Jane Kelsey – NZ Herald 12.12.12
Brian Fallow – NZ Herald 29.11.12
Wikipedia – US Pharmaceutical Industry
PHARMAC Home Page – Pharmaceutical Schedule