Heather Roy: from politics to big pharma

Former ACT MP Heather Roy plans to leverage her political skills as newly-appointed chair of pharmaceutical lobby group, Medicines NZ.

In her new role, Roy says she will be working on issues she was directly involved with in parliament. It also draws on her private sector experience.

''My political skills will be an important component and an advantage,'' she said.

Roy was a health select committee member between 2002 and 2005, and was ACT's health spokesperson in her first two terms in parliament between 2002 and 2008. In 2010, former ACT leader Rodney Hide axed Roy as deputy leader of the party in favour of John Boscawen.

Before going in to parliament, Roy was a physiotherapist and led public and private sector clinical trials in New Zealand and overseas.

She is replacing lawyer, Lex Henry, as chair of the association.

Medicines NZ had already engaged in the debate about the level of medicine access for New Zealand patients, and Roy planned to continue this work. A New Zealand Medical Journal article late last year said New Zealand patients were receive access to new medicines at about half the rate of Australians.

There was still some ''significant issues to work on there in term of access,'' she said. Government body Pharmac had a lot of power and ability to approve and not approve medicines for subsidised use in New Zealand.

If doctors wanted to prescribe a medicine different from the Pharmac-approved schedule then patients had to pay for it and only the wealthy could afford that, she said.

Roy was also interested in the development of our Trans-Tasman relationship and how to get non-prescription medicine -known as complementaries - in to the health care regime.

Pharmaceuticals had an important role to play in the negotiations around the Trans Pacific Partnership and in any free trade agreement with the US, she said.

Medicines New Zealand general manager Kevin Sheehy said it was extremely pleased to have appointed such a high calibre person to the role and Roy's skills and experience were closely aligned with the association's mission to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders through equitable access to quality medicines.

Fairfax Media