Hamish Rutherford from NZME interviews Sarah Fitt, Chief Executive of Pharmac – one of the panellists taking part in HealthCentral ChalkTalks’ panel discussion on the “Future of New Zealand’s Healthcare – how do we achieve a more productive, sustainable and equitable healthcare system.”

Hamish: How is Pharmac helping make the health system more productive?

Sarah Fitt: Certainly our role in managing new technology is quite important for the future sustainability of the health system so our work is very much focussed on medicines but also medical devices going into the future as well.

Hamish: There’s never enough funding for Pharmac and an endless supply of need – how do you cope with that?

Sarah Fitt: I think it’s an issue for the whole health system and it’s not a particular issue for New Zealand – and around the world people are grappling with the increasing demands an aging population and more technology. So we see our role as assessing new medicines that come to market, and new technology, and ensuring we’re getting the best value for taxpayers, for New Zealand.

Hamish: How do you assess innovative new stuff that has some chance of making a real difference and balance that against what you already do, what you already know, and what has been working in the past?

Sarah Fitt: So that’s a very key part of what we do. Our first step when we get an application for a new medicine or new device is get clinical advice – so we have a wide network of clinical advisors who are clinicians working in the field so often they’re very familiar with new technology that’s becoming available, we get information from the supplier, we also look at seeing what’s going on overseas, because often we can get a good idea of how medicines or devices fit into the healthcare systems in other countries – and really that’s what we do, is that analysis. We than do an economic analysis – we look at how does this new treatment or device compare to what’s currently available, what other options are and come up with what we think is really the next best investment.

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