Doctor says Pharmac's diabetes funding delay killing whānau

Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa chair Dr John Baker says Pharmac's delay in funding new diabetes drugs, has led to many Māori and Pasifika deaths, especially in South Auckland where he practises medicine.

A review of Pharmac shows a six-year delay between the agency being asked to fund Empagliflozin to treat type-2 diabetes, and its announcement to fund it, along with Dulaglutide, to treat 53,000 patients.

“Empagliflozin was shown in a landmark clinical trial in 2015 to reduce diabetes-related deaths by forty per cent. And that was the first time a diabetes drug had ever been shown to reduce diabetes deaths in a clinical trial.”

Dr Baker says the delay of these products to the country is evidence that Aotearoa is falling behind in its delivery of modern medicine for those in dire need.

“We need to go back to the findings of the Pharmac review committee,” he says

“From these findings, it was evident that there was a significant delay in providing these drugs to our patients and we lamented this information to them, and this cost was measured in excess deaths and patients progressing to renal failure and dialysis."

In a statement, Pharmac said: "Diabetes is the country's biggest and fastest-growing health condition. We know that funding medicines does not in itself address many of the barriers to access, that people face. There are lots of structural issues in the health system, that Pharmac cannot address by itself, with this funding decision.

We acknowledge that health inequities are unable to be addressed by medicines alone and that these medicines are focused on treatment, rather than prevention, but we also know that Pharmac does have a role to play."