Oct 11, 2023, 3:49 PM

Rare Disorders New Zealand is calling on the Minister of Health to remove Steve Maharey as Pharmac’s Chair after he has failed to take strong action against the CEO of Pharmac, Sarah Fitt, for the unacceptable language revealed in internal correspondence between Pharmac executives regarding journalist Rachel Smalley. 

“The Chair’s response is absolutely appalling and effectively just a slap on the wrist. It is unacceptable for Fitt, as the head of a government agency to use and condone such contemptuous language about people who are advocating on behalf of those whose lives depend on the decisions Pharmac makes,” says Rare Disorders NZ Chief Executive Chris Higgins. 

“It seems that the executive of Pharmac has lost touch with the very personal and sensitive nature of their work. Patient advocates such as Smalley play such an important role in reminding Pharmac about the people who are at the receiving end of their decisions. Their decisions impact individuals and families immensely, and this is a responsibility they must shoulder with tact and sensitivity at all times.” 

The internal emails have come to light following journalist Rachel Smalley’s Privacy Act request and display a high degree of contempt for the journalist.  

“The emails reflect a culture where belittling those trying to hold them to account seems to be acceptable. As an agency with the authority to decide who gets access to life-saving medicines this simply cannot be brushed aside as a minor issue, and the Chair’s failure to recognise this means he must go. Patients’ trust in Pharmac has been eroding over many years, and this latest incident will only intensify this mistrust. Culture change is needed at Pharmac, beginning with a change in leadership.” 

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