COVID-19: Information for patients
As New Zealand returns to our new normal, we are continuing to review how we can support patients and the health sector.
Last updated: 4 June 2020
On this page:
- I'm visiting New Zealand, how much will my medicine cost
- Easier access to some medicines
- Is there enough of my medicine
- What if there's a shortage?
- How do I get my medicine?
- Change to monthly dispensing
- I can't get to my nominated pharmacy
- Get vaccinated if you're eligible
- Can I get hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
- What's PHARMAC doing about PPE
- Who to contact
PHARMAC decides what medicines to fund for eligible people. The Ministry of Health decides who is eligible for funded medicine.
You will need a prescription from a New Zealand doctor or prescriber.
Talk to a pharmacist about the cost and availability of your medication.
PHARMAC is making it easier to get funded access to some medicines, including at least nine cancer medicines.
Some medicines are only funded if certain clinical criteria (like medical tests or hospital scans ). Some medicines might need a specific kind of health practitioner to make the application.
You might not even know that your medicine has these requirements, because the prescriber applies online, usually at the same time as they’re giving you the prescription.
We're making these changes so you can still receive the medicine you need while:
- reducing clinic contact time (such as enabling telehealth approaches)
- supporting isolation principles as much as possible
- freeing up resources across clinical staffing, infusion centres, laboratories and pharmacy.
Suppliers are required to keep 2 months' supply in the country at any one time. There's usually another 4 to 6 weeks' worth of stock in the supply chain.
PHARMAC, pharmacies and suppliers are working closely together to maintain continuous medicines supply, and to put in place measures to minimise and fairly distribute any medicines in short supply.
We all have a role to play in keeping medicines available for our community - people on regular medicines should always have enough for 1 to 2 weeks treatment. Please avoid stockpiling your medicines. Stockpiling could lead to someone else missing out.
You should make sure you always have 1 to 2 weeks worth of your regular medicines.
If there is a shortage of your medicine, PHARMAC may change the restrictions around how much medicine can be dispensed at one time. You may need to collect smaller amounts of your medicine more frequently.
Phone your nearest pharmacy and ask them if they are able to fill your prescription.
When it is time to renew your prescription, contact your medical centre. If you are well, they may be happy to renew your prescription without being seen, or they may offer to talk with you by telephone or online. Ask if these options are available for you.
Illness or isolating at home is not a barrier to getting your prescription and other medicines from your pharmacy.
Your medical centre can send your prescription to your preferred pharmacy for you. You can then have someone else (family member, friend or carer) visit the pharmacy to collect your medicines for you, or ask your pharmacy if they can arrange delivery to your home.
This information is also available in Cook Island, Fijian, Kiribati, Niue, Rotuman, Samoan, Tokelau, Tongan, and Tuvalu
Community pharmacists are required to limit dispensing of all funded medicines to one month's supply (or three months for oral contraceptives).
You will not pay more than you normally would. There is no charge for picking up the monthly repeats.
The $5 co-payment for the first dispensing on the prescription remains. If your medicine is fully funded, this is all you will pay.
If you are worried about going to the pharmacy, someone else can pick up your medicine on your behalf. Some pharmacies may offer a delivery service.
Pharmacists can use their discretion to dispense 3 months' worth of medicine.
We recommend calling your pharmacy to talk about the options available to you.
If you have a medicine that has received funding through the NPPA process or the lamotrigine exceptional circumstances process, you will have nominated a pharmacy to collect that medicine from.
We have removed this restriction while New Zealand is responding to COVID-19.
Phone your nearest pharmacy to ask if they can fill your prescription.
Everyone who is eligible for a funded influenza or pneumococcal vaccine should get one. Talk to your health professional about whether you qualify and the best way to get vaccinated.
There's currently no direct evidence to support the assertion that hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19. You cannot get funded hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
PHARMAC has restricted access to hydroxychloroquine to only people who need it for one of the following:
- active rheumatoid arthritis
- systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus
- malaria treatment
- malaria suppression.
PHARMAC does not fund PPE. The National Health Co-ordination Centre (NHCC) is coordinating the pandemic supply of these items with their supplier.
If you are concerned about the availability of your medicine, contact your pharmacist.
Last updated: 5 June 2020