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.
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