31 Jan 2011

More help for coeliac disease sufferers urged

8:52 pm on 31 January 2011

A group which supports sufferers of coeliac disease has been urging Pharmac to give more help to those who must buy costly gluten-free products.

Thousands of New Zealanders have the serious gluten intolerance and must eat gluten-free products in order to live normally.

The Coeliac New Zealand support group commissioned a survey of food prices last year and was surprised to find how much more expensive many basic gluten-free items are compared to the alternatives.

The group has been talking to government drug funder Pharmac about expanding access to a part subsidy on the products.

But Pharmac says it is unlikely to alter the historical part subsidy, largely because if concerns foods not drugs.

"The problem is that if we increase the partial subsidy there is no control that we have on how much extra the pharmacist or whoever will charge on top of that partial subsidy", medical director Peter Moodie says.

"We are consulting right now on the fact that we're hoping just to leave the subsidy as it is."

The survey showed gluten-free dried spaghetti was $28 per kilo more expensive than the product that contained gluten, rice bubbles were $17 a kilo dearer, muesli cost $8 per kilo more and bread about $8 a kilo more.

Separately, some dietitians say that eating gluten-free is a trend, and people considering it should be tested for coeliac disease first, because of the expense and commitment involved in such a diet.