Govt moves to modernise control of our meds, but wait: Māori healers can bring the Treaty (signed in 1840) into the mix

Buzz from the Beehive

Conflicts between Treaty of Waitangi demands to protect Māori healing methods and the influence of medical science on health regulators have been anticipated, as the Government introduces the Therapeutic Products Bill in Parliament.

The Bill, aimed at modernising the way medicines, medical devices and natural health products are regulated, replaces the Medicines Act 1981 and Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985 with a comprehensive regulatory regime “that is fit for the future”.

But the Treaty-twitchy government is eager to avoid the conflict that seems inevitable when  modernising the regulatory regime – to provide all New Zealanders with health products and services that are safe, high-quality, and effective – rubs up against obligations to preserve the Maori way of doing things.

Accordingly, Associate Health Minister (Māori) Peeni Henare tells us of “a new workstream” which  will consider how “rongoā” might be protected in legislation.

Rongoā is traditional Māori medicine, including herbal medicine made from plants, physical techniques such as massage, and spiritual healing.

This makes it an “alternative treatment”,  but in this country it is a Beehive-blessed and state-subsidised alternative treatment. 

The interim Māori Health Authority announced its inaugural commissioning investment of $22 million in May this year.  More than 149 Māori providers since then have received funding to support innovation and sustainability, and funded Rongoā Māori services are now available throughout New Zealand through the establishment of four new Rongoā Māori providers and support for the existing 31 Rongoā Māori providers to expand their services.

Maori traditional healers are the only alternative-treatment providers directly receiving public health dollars.

When first they were given public funding more than 10 years ago, the deputy director-general of Maori health Teresa Wall said contracts for rongoa practitioners were costing $1.9 million a year.

A national body set up in 2008 to oversee the professional development of rongoa services was given establishment funding of $200,000.

Wall told Stuff at that time traditional Maori healing could not be viewed from the perspective of Western medicine, where people were prescribed something and expected to get better.

“The mere fact that people use rongoa and go back to the practitioners is testament that the services they are given are contributing to their wellbeing.”

The mere fact that people go back to their acupuncturists, homeopathists, naturopaths, snake oil pedlars and what-have-you provides much the same thing about their healing powers, but the state shies from funding them.

Wall made another point back in 2009: healers were required to report to the ministry quarterly and submit an annual report, but the practitioners and their health outcomes were not reviewed.

“It’s not unusual to fund on outputs. It’s extraordinarily difficult to report on outcomes,” Wall said.

Rakau rongoa herbal remedies were not covered by the Medicines Act and the ministry did not require them to be tested as part of its funding policy.

Let’s see how things are changed by the introduction of  the Therapeutics Products Bill, news of which was one of two Beehive announcements which brought modern-day medicinal science into considerations.  

One statement was headed  –

World-first bedside blood test good for people, good for health system

A single blood test that can diagnose heart attacks in minutes instead of hours, saving the health system millions of dollars and getting patients treated faster, is being rolled out in New Zealand hospitals,, says Health Minister Andrew Little.

 The research team, led by Dr Martin Than and emergency doctors at Christchurch Hospital, has been working for a decade on finding better ways of diagnosing heart attacks.

Their methods won a prestigious global healthcare award in 2020 and are now being used in other hospitals across the country, where they have reduced the median stay of cardiac patients in ED by three hours and saved the health system an estimated $50 million to $70 million.

The real break-through, however, is the development of a blood test that can be analysed at the bedside in minutes, but is still as precise as a laboratory test.

The iCare-Faster project (improving Care by FAster risk-STratfication in the EmeRgency Department) was awarded $1.15 million from the Government’s Health Research Council in 2019, but work was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christchurch Hospital ED is the first in the world to start using the fast, high-precision bedside troponin blood test and from February, 10 more hospitals – Whangārei, North Shore, Waitakere, Waikato, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Nelson and Timaru – will start using it too

Therapeutic Products Bill introduced

Legislation to modernise the way medicines, medical devices and natural health products are regulated has been introduced in Parliament today.

The Therapeutic Products Bill replaces the Medicines Act 1981 and Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985 with a comprehensive regulatory regime “that is fit for the future”.

Health Minister Andrew Little said the Bill will give New Zealanders peace-of-mind about the safety, quality and efficacy of the medicines, medical devices (such as COVID-19 test kits) and natural health products they are using.

“Quality medicines and medical devices are essential for a well-functioning health system, and consumers need to know the natural health products they’re buying off the shelf are safe,” Andrew Little said.

“The Therapeutic Products Bill is a flexible regulatory framework for how therapeutic products are manufactured, prescribed, imported, advertised, supplied and exported, and makes the regulation of clinical trials more robust.

“It enables New Zealand to take advantage of advances in medicine, such as cell and tissue therapies, emerging gene therapies, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning software. Having risk-proportionate approval systems will improve access to necessary and life-saving medicines, such as vaccines in a pandemic.

“Consumer safety sits at the heart of the Bill, so the community will be better protected from goods and gadgets that make unfounded or misleading therapeutic claims.

Having a modern set of laws and regulations that line up with international practices will also help our medicines and natural health products industries to export to the world.

The Bill, the result of more than a decade of policy work, incorporates what has been learned from consultation on the Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill that was introduced in 2011 before being discontinued, as well as the regulation of therapeutic products policy proposals released in April 2016.

The Bill is expected to have its first reading in Parliament before Christmas and will be referred to the Health Select Committee for detailed examination including public and industry submissions.

Natural health products

The Therapeutic Products Bill will regulate natural health products, but in a separate category from medicines and medical devices.

Natural health products are intended to support, promote or maintain health in some way, so are in the category of ‘therapeutic products’.

However the rules applying to natural health products will reflect the fact that they are generally lower risk than medicines and medical devices.

The Bill will ensure market standards for the quality of products (such as Vitamin C tablets) in the places they are already supplied, such as supermarkets.

New regulator

The Bill establishes a new regulator within the Ministry of Health, headed by an independent statutory officer, with a wider remit than the medicines regulator Medsafe.

The new regulator will be responsible for ensuring the safety, quality and efficacy of regulated products across their lifecycle. It will design and implement proportionate, risk-based market authorisation pathways to support the timely availability of therapeutic products. Its functions will include, in addition to market authorisation, licensing controlled activities, post-market surveillance, compliance and enforcement.

Additional resources will be made available to setup the new regulatory regime while ensuring the day-to-day work of Medsafe continues efficiently. The new regulator have the same ability as Medsafe to recover costs through fees, charges and levies, which will be set after consultation with the relevant sectors, professions and individuals it regulates.

The Bill includes a range of modern enforcement tools allowing for a graduated and proportionate response to breaches, including tiered criminal offences, strict liability offences, improved infringement notices and a civil pecuniary penalty regime.

The Bill can be read HERE.

But wait – things like taonga and the Treaty have not been overlooked and so there has been another statement –

New rongoā workstream announced alongside Therapeutic Products Bill

A new workstream has been established within government to consider how rongoā might be protected in legislation. This comes as the Therapeutic Products Bill is introduced in Parliament today, Associate Minister for Health (Māori) Hon Peeni Henare said.

Henare explained that …

  1. Under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown has an obligation to actively protect rongoā Māori.
  2. And it has a responsibility to provide all New Zealanders with health products and services that are safe, high-quality, and effective.

At the same time as it has introduced the Therapeutic Products Bill to Parliament, the government is recognising the importance of rongoā,

The government’s efforts to recognise and protect it include consulting with Te Kāhui Rongoā, a governance body for rongoā practitioners, Māori clinicians and health providers.

Henare explained:

“This new rongoā work stream will explore the interface of the Therapeutic Products Bill and rongoā. The group will also explore whether rongoā matters are being addressed through other government work programmes.

“Officials within the workstream will analyse the Therapeutic Products Bill to identify any gaps and opportunities to protect rongoā Māori, assure whānau safety, and ensure access to the export market for practitioners.

“This will present a whole new world of opportunities for both rongoā practitioners and whānau living abroad who have been wanting to access rongoā and other natural health products from Aotearoa,” Peeni Henare said.

Henare further said that now the Bill has been introduced to Parliament, there will be an opportunity for people to have their say at Select Committee.

As part of the rongoā workstream, the Ministry of Health is planning to engage between February and March 2023 with Māori partners and stakeholders to capture their views.

The ministry will provide advice to the Minister in April 2023, following targeted engagement with key stakeholders, “Māori partners” and expert groups over the next few months.

Other Beehive statements tell us our ministers have been –

Looking for ways of helping the Police deal with fleeing drivers

The Government is changing the law to give Police greater enforcement tools when dealing with dangerous and reckless driving on our roads, Ministers Chris Hipkins and Kiri Allan announced today.

Satisfying themselves about their fiscal management prowess

The Crown accounts are in a solid position thanks to the Government’s careful financial management through a deteriorating global environment.

Making more people eligible for Dental Grants Available From Today

Changes to Special Needs Grant limits for dental treatment come into force today.

The press statement emphasises:  

  • People can now receive more than one grant in a year (any 52-week period), up to the maximum of $1,000
  • Recent increases to income thresholds mean more people are eligible for

Enthusing about the billions of export earnings generated by food and fibre products

New Zealand’s record food and fibre export revenue is projected to reach new record highs, helping protect New Zealanders from the sharp edges of the global downturn.

 Giving us guidance on climate action

The Government has released new guidance to support stronger links between New Zealand’s climate change goals, and local and regional planning.

One thought on “Govt moves to modernise control of our meds, but wait: Māori healers can bring the Treaty (signed in 1840) into the mix

  1. Why on earth should taxpayers of all ethnicities be expected to fund this Stone Age witch doctor farce??

    This divisive so called treaty (it is an agreement rather than a treaty on international law) has to be scrapped in all its forms and reliance placed on the Bill of Rights and other modern legislation.

    Liked by 3 people

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