Sick New Zealanders get access to far fewer new prescription drugs than Australians, and have to wait years longer for those that are approved, a damning report has found.
A trans-Tasman study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows just 43 per cent of medications subsidised in Australia in the past decade were also subsidised for New Zealand patients.
Kiwis missed out on 76 drugs that treat a wide range of conditions including cancers, dementia, depression, asthma, arthritis and Parkinson's disease and others for which there are no reimbursed drugs listed.
Australians missed out on just four medications approved here.
Drug registration took nine months longer in New Zealand and, once registered, Kiwi patients had to wait two years longer than Australians to get a subsidised prescription.
Richard Milne of the University of Auckland said the results would no doubt be concerning for some sick New Zealanders wanting access to newer medications.
"Individual patients and groups will certainly be concerned that pharmaceuticals they'd like to have are available in Australia but not here," Dr Milne told NZ Newswire.
The report lays blame with New Zealand's drug funding process, saying Pharmac, unlike its Australian counterpart PBAC, is constrained by a capped budget and often expands availability of older drugs at the expense of new and "highly cost-effective pharmaceuticals".
Pharmac is less transparent and most of its "listing decisions have not been open to public scrutiny", it states.
New Zealand Medical Association deputy chairman Mark Peterson said Pharmac did "pretty well" supplying drugs for the greatest benefit with limited funds but was he was aware there were "issues" with availability of medications for some rare conditions.
But John Forman from the NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders said the system was clearly letting down many New Zealanders who would be far better off if they lived on the other side of the ditch.
Pharmac's Peter Moodie warned against trans-Tasman comparisons, saying the two agencies operate differently with vastly different budgets, processes and policies.
"That one country funds more new medicines than the other is one thing, but the more important questions are whether one country gets more health gains and more value for precious health dollars than the other," he wrote in a response published in the journal.