Year in Review: Access to medicines for everyone
Sandy Bhawan has been made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand. Sandy, Manager of PHARMAC’s Access Equity team, reflects on what this means for her work.
“I am proud to have been awarded this prestigious title. I was chosen for my contribution to the pharmaceutical profession. And in my role in PHARMAC, I am continuing to contribute with a new focus – medicine access equity”.
“I believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access funded medicines to reach their full health potential.”
Sandy was the lead author of PHARMAC’s publication – Achieving medicine access equity in Aotearoa New
Zealand: Towards a theory of change. This discussion piece, published in April 2019, has already been sparking conversations between different individuals and organisations with a role in the health sector, about actions they can take and collaborate on to help achieve equity.
“As far as we know, this is the first New Zealand publication that discusses medicine access equity and brings together expert opinion and evidence to build a theory about how to improve it. While there is always a lot of discussion in the media about funding new medicines, we believe New Zealand can gain much more by improving access to medicines we already fund. These funded medicines can help make a difference to New Zealanders and help them live better and healthier lives.”
My background as a pharmacist is about 21 years long really. I started off in hospital pharmacy and I've worked at the pharmacy council of New Zealand, things around policy and regulation of pharmacists in general and also have done about seven years in primary health care. And then the last 18 months almost, has been here at Pharmac as the principal advisor for the Access Equity team. And the work that really I’ve been doing here is just providing thought leadership for the organisation to be able to think about what is it that they mean when they talk about Access Equity. Where is it that Pharmac can most influence?
Pharmac set its strategic goal around eliminating inequities in access to medicines by 2025. And ultimately the goal is to ensure that those people who are unable to access the medicines that we fund, are able to get there. So it’s a bit about figuring out the problems, working with the sector, and I think Pharmac as an organisation, it’s greatest work that it can do is actually influencing the sector.
The award that I received was a designation as the Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society. It was one of the three that was awarded in 2018. I think what makes this designation incredibly special for me is that it’s actually been the first time that it’s been awarded to an Indo-Fijian pharmacist, and the award kind of recognises the 21 years of service and contribution to the pharmacy profession and all the various pieces of work that I’ve done.
It’s given me amazing enthusiasm and energy to keep going. I think there is still a lot more work to be done and I think that the pharmacy profession has got so much to give for the healthcare of New Zealanders, so I’m personally incredibly excited as I think what more can I contribute toward the profession.
It is a real privilege to work in this space of equity, but especially around medicine access equity because as I’ve thought about ‘what does this mean for New Zealand?’, I’m really moved by the fact that people can have improved health outcomes through medicines and by missing out on medicines and not having access to medicines, they’re not only missing out on health improved outcomes, but they’re also missing out on the potential of them as human beings; of them to be living a life that is meaningful and lives in which they can thrive and lives in which they can make the very best of everything that they can. And so I think for me, this is what gets me out of bed every morning, is that the work that I do will make a meaningful difference for people in New Zealand. It’ll make sure that they have the best chance of achieving that potential and make a meaningful and productive contribution to society to their families and to themselves, really.
Last updated: 12 December 2019