Medicines are a key part of the health and disability support system and make significant contributions to the lives of New Zealanders. They are used to treat a wide range of diseases and disorders and in some cases can be used to replace invasive procedures. Ultimately, medicines contribute to New Zealanders’ opportunities to maintain their independence and enhance their quality of life.
The medicines environment has changed significantly over the years. New products offer expanded treatment options, New Zealanders are increasingly taking more responsibility for their own health and there is growing awareness of the risks of inappropriate medicines use. These are heartening trends, but we must continue to ensure that the medicines system can respond to change. Health practitioners and people using medicines must work together to establish treatment regimes that are appropriate to individual circumstances, including ensuring that treatment regimes are well understood. The system needs to recognise that individuals may vary from population norms, people need access to good information about medicines (including explanations about the cost of health services directly related to medicines) and the overall system must be affordable for taxpayers.
The process of developing Medicines New Zealand began in 2005. The work was initiated because it was apparent that the medicines system was not serving New Zealanders as well as it could and lacked an overarching strategic direction. The consultation document Towards a New Zealand Medicines Strategy was released in December 2006. It described how the medicines system in New Zealand currently works, proposed a new strategic direction and identified areas where improvements could be made.
We have consulted widely on the proposals and are pleased to launch Medicines New Zealand and Actioning Medicines New Zealand. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have made significant contributions to the development of these documents and we look forward to your ongoing participation in their implementation. We were particularly struck by the constructive discussions during the consultation process and the willingness to be open and frank about the operation of current systems. This open and constructive approach bodes well for the future and the realisation of the objectives of Medicines New Zealand.
Medicines New Zealand is intended to provide a strategic framework that supports sound decision-making over time. It is principles-based and aims to deliver a transparent and coherent approach to medicines issues in New Zealand. It has the potential to draw together the agencies and stakeholders that make up our medicines system and provide them with a platform to build a sustainable system that ensures equitable access to safe, quality medicines that are used in the most effective ways possible.
Our medicines system grapples with complex issues, but New Zealand does not do this alone. Internationally, issues such as how to determine the right level of investment in medicines versus other health services are the subject of ongoing debate. There are no simple answers.
Medicines New Zealand aims to ensure that the decisions made about prioritisation and funding are as transparent as possible, understood and open to debate. It is important for New Zealanders to have confidence that the medicines system is fair, even if they do not always agree with all of the decisions made.
Ensuring equitable and affordable access to medicines is a central concern for the medicines system, but so are issues of quality and optimal use. New Zealand needs to address the inadequacies in its regulatory arrangements to ensure medicines are safe. There is also great potential to improve health outcomes by improving the way medicines are used.
Medicines New Zealand is supported by Actioning Medicines New Zealand. Actioning Medicines New Zealand sets out the key initiatives that will take the first steps toward achieving Medicines New Zealand out comes and contribute to larger health and disability support system outcomes: improvements in New Zealanders’ health; improved independence and participation; reduced inequalities between population groups; and greater trust and security in the health and disability system. Progressing Actioning Medicines New Zealand is what will make the strategy real and make a difference to New Zealand communities.
Medicines New Zealand builds on the feedback from the sector and the public and aims to change the New Zealand medicines environment for the better. It is important that all stakeholders continue to contribute, achieve and aspire to building a world-class medicines system for New Zealand that will ensure the best health and disability outcomes from medicines in a changing world.