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Beta-interferon given to 82 patients show far

Media Release

Beta-interferon given to 82 patients show far

PHARMAC announces that there are now 82 people with multiple sclerosis who have received approval for funding of the MS drug beta-interferon.

So far about 82 percent of applications have been approved.

Approvals started last month and the assessment panel is meeting regularly to evaluate all applications as they come in. This follows considerable time assessing the drug’s overall cost-effectivenes, as it is not a cure but does improve the condition for some patients. Extensive consultation was carried out with neurologists and the MS Society to identify which patients would benefit from the drug.

Earlier this year a set of criteria was established to determine which patients would be eligible for funding.

PHARMAC General Manager Wayne McNee says the funding of beta-interferon has been a challenge to a number of overseas health authorities, because it is only effective for some patients and it is extremely expensive. In New Zealand, one year’s supply of the drug costs $20,000 per person.

“It is too expensive to fund for everyone so PHARMAC is committed to ensuring it is available to those patients who would get the greatest benefit. This process was long and extremely thorough as we didn’t want to be in the position that health authorities in the UK have found themselves in where they are struggling to sustain the funding criteria they started with.”

Prior to the decision to fund beta-interferon, some patients chose to pay for the drug themselves. To be eligible for public funding these patients need to meet the same criteria as other patients. This is based on which patients the drug will most effectively benefit. To date seven patients who previously paid for their own treatment have had their applications approved.

Last month the Minister of Health Annette King announced that 180 patients were expected to fit the criteria, and funding will be available for this number.

(Ends]

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