Pharmac stacks on workers after expanding in medical devices, vaccines

Stuart McLauchlan, PHARMAC Board chairman

Pharmac, which manages an annual drug-funding budget of more than $780 million, plans to extend a three-year hiring spree after expanding in medical devices, vaccines and hospital medicines.

The Pharmaceutical Management Agency will increase its workforce to about 130 from 110 currently, having added 70 workers in the past three years.

The state-funded body has taken on more floor space, hired an architect to oversee a revamp of its Wellington headquarters and put out a tender for IT advice that would allow staff to work remotely, according to a request for information posted on the government's GETS tender website.

"Pharmac is undergoing a period of rapid growth, including a dramatic increase in staff numbers," the body says in its tender notice.

Pharmac funded a record 42.2 million prescriptions last year, with 3.4 million New Zealanders getting subsidised medicines, also a record, according to its latest annual report.

In 2012, the government agreed to a plan for Pharmac to progressively expand its management and procurement of hospital devices and consumables, which cost District Health Boards some $880 million in the 2011 year and are rising faster than increases in the DHBs' funding.

Pharmac tends to cop criticism from consumers in trying to squeeze the best possible health outcomes from the government's health budget. Trying to meet the public's growing demand for new medicines within a defined budget is "challenging," the body says on its website.

At the same time, drug companies have criticised the centralised buying agency, saying it has stifled development of drugs in New Zealand, while being reluctant to fund high-cost medicines to treat rare diseases.

Pharmac has also reportedly featured in confidential negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the first free trade agreement linking Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.

(BusinessDesk)

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2 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Unlike generic drugs, bioequivalent drugs need to be certified before they can be approved for sale; a long and costly undertaking that in Chile falls to the ISP. But once this task has been completed, patients can be sure that the drug they are consuming is exactly what it says it is.

This was not the case previously. When the quest for cheaper medical alternatives began in Chile during the presidency of Eduardo Frei in 1964, the drugs that were introduced were generic, not bioequivalent. Generic drugs, like bioequivalent drugs, are cheaper and fulfill the same medical function more or less as their patented ancestors, but they are not identical on a molecular level. This makes it dangerous for doctors and pharmacists to calculate the appropriate dosage when prescribing and selling them, points out Saavedra. http://www.businesschile.cl/en/news/secondary-story/bioequivalent-drugs-... .

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And still as New Zealand citizens we have to wait on long hospital queues and not have access to new first world drugs. Spending more money to supposedly save more money. This does not sound like driving efficiency but rather like job creation. The records Pharmac talk about are not ones a first world country should be proud of. It is not the price that is important it is the value for money that should be the driver.

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gr8 erticle, keyp up teh geerd work!

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