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PHARMAC decision impacts heavily

Chief Reporter Scoop

AGE CONCERN MEDIA RELEASE -- 14 NOVEMBER 2001

** PHARMAC decision impacts heavily **

A good quality of life for older people with Alzheimer' disease is being denied by PHARMAC's refusal to subsidise new medications. Cost savings in residential and hospital care that could result appear to have been ignored.

"Having recently attended the Alzheimer's Disease International conference, our eyes have been opened to the level of help and relief that is available to many people, through the use of a managed care programme with Alzheimer's medications," says Garth Taylor, Chief Executive, Age Concern New Zealand.

PHARMAC NZ has given a low priority rating to subsidise medications that have been proven to help Alzheimer's' sufferers in a significant number of cases. As the condition progresses, residential and hospital care become inevitable. Any delay in admission to care facilities would result in significant cost savings to the Government and taxpayers.

"This response effectively denies treatment to thousands of New Zealanders with this condition," says Mr Taylor. "What is particularly distressing is that New Zealand stands out as one of a few developed countries where Alzheimer's drugs are not reimbursed by the Government or private health plans. Our 'cousins' in Australia and the UK are able to access them freely, and one must question why PHARMAC chooses to ignore evidence that other countries pharmaceutical agencies have accepted. Is it a case of ignoring the rights of the older members of our community?

"As an advocate for older people, Age Concern is particularly disturbed that many New Zealanders will be denied their dignity and will suffer as a consequence of this decision. It not only affects the sufferer but also their carer and family. It seems that if you are well off and can afford to pay for these medications then you are able to access treatment, but for the ordinary New Zealander this is denied because of the cost.

"We are concerned this PHARMAC decision is indicative of a much wider issue - that there appears to be no provision for the funding of new and progressive drugs that may become available to treat conditions that mainly affect the older population."

ENDS

For further information please contact:

Garth Taylor, Chief Executive (wk) 0-4-471 2709 or (mobile) 025 243 6991

http://www.ageconcern.org.nz

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