10 Oct 2014

Funding for MS treatments approved

9:31 pm on 10 October 2014

Funding for newer and more effective multiple sclerosis treatments has been approved by Pharmac.

As well as funding two new medicines, fingolimod (Gilenya) and natalizumab (Tysabri) from next month, all treatments will be funded from first diagnosis.

About 600 people currently receive funded multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments.

Pharmac estimates this could grow by about 400 over the next few years, with the change in criteria and improved choice of treatments.

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition which leads to increasing levels of disability.

Pharmac director of operations Sarah Fitt said as well as introducing the two new treatments, access to the current treatment has also been widened.

She said patients can now also access treatment after diagnosis, where as previously they had to show some signs of disability.

Ms Fitt said about 600 New Zealanders receive funded treatments for relapsing-remitting MS, but the change in criteria and improved choice of treatment, meant that could grow to 1000 over the next few years.

Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand vice-president Neil Woodhams said some people have been paying for medication at a cost of $30,000 to $60,000 a year.

Mr Woodhams said others have had to move overseas to countries such as Australia, where the medication was funded. He said all of those situations were now covered.

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