Would you have access to life saving medicines if you needed them?

2 MIN READ October 30, 2023
Living in New Zealand with access to universal healthcare, we often assume if the worst happened and we became seriously ill we would have access to timely and funded treatment.


However, increasingly we are seeing Oncologists and other medical professionals pleading with Pharmac, New Zealand’s drug buying agency, to increase funding for life saving treatment.

Medicines are a core part of healthcare, however New Zealand is ranked last of 32 OECD countries for publicly funded medication. New Zealanders don’t have access to many medicines that are already part of the standard international treatment regime, meaning the country is barely keeping pace with the World Health Organisation essential medicine list.

In an open letter by the Gut Cancer Foundation an urgent call was made in relation to the widening medicine gap in New Zealand. The Gut Cancer Foundation represents the over 6,000 New Zealanders diagnosed with cancer of the digestive system every year. And, with one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer they are urging Pharmac for newer and better-funded medication.

Their heartfelt plea addresses the pressing need for broader availability of critical treatments and sheds light on the fact New Zealand’s public health system will not provide the level of care that is expected or needed. “Knowing that patients are no longer receiving cancer care as per international guidelines and being powerless to effect change is increasingly common,” Oncologist Dr Kate Clarke told Radio New Zealand.

In their article Radio New Zealand spoke with a Kiwi who was diagnosed in January 2022 with stage four esophageal cancer. After 3 months of chemotherapy the next recommended treatment that was approved by Medsafe was not funded for oesophageal cancer. The treatment cost nearly $10,000 every 3 weeks. The reality was a tough decision between hard earned savings and health.

Too often New Zealanders do not understand what is and isn’t funded until they find themselves or someone close to them is sick. This lack of awareness can cause New Zealanders to overlook insurance such as medical and health cover, when these covers can provide essential access to unfunded medications and private medical care when you need it. Allowing you to focus on getting better rather than on how you will afford the treatment. 

Working with a Haven Financial Adviser can help you understand what you are and aren’t currently covered for. By understanding your situation an adviser can make sure you’ve got the right cover in place for when you need it. 

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