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New funding for bi-polar disorder

05 August 2004

$27 million a year 7 year funding agreement gives long-term security for schizophrenia patients and new funding for bi-polar disorder

Auckland 5th August 2004 – A new agreement between Eli Lilly and Company NZ and PHARMAC guarantees long-term supply and improved patient access to leading anti-psychotic medicine Zyprexa (Olanzapine) from September 1st 2004.

Associate Health Minister Hon Jim Anderton says the agreement is another positive step towards achieving the Government’s priority health objective of reducing suicide rates and suicide attempts. “It is great to have another alternative to treat bi-polar disorder, people and their families dealing with this difficult mental illness need as much support as we can give.”

The funding agreement makes Zyprexa more widely available for the treatment of schizophrenia and, for the first time, for bi-polar disorder (commonly known as manic-depression). Schizophrenia affects an estimated 40,000 New Zealanders and bi-polar disorder affects around 60,000.

University of Auckland senior lecturer in psychiatry Dr Tony Fernando says the agreement is fantastic news for patients and their families. ”Until now there has been a limited number of treatments available for bi-polar disorder. Zyprexa is standard treatment in other countries for the disorder and it is great it can now be accessed in New Zealand.

“The change in access criteria will allow doctors to stabilise patients who are experiencing the manic phase of bi-polar disorder and to maintain them on the medication for up to two years. This is extremely important for a mental illness where people commonly relapse with often very serious consequences.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA, nearly one in five people with bi-polar disorder end their life by suicide and an estimated 25 percent of people with bi-polar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. The World Health Organisation estimates that bi-polar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide diagnosed in around 1.5% of the general population.

Dr Carolyn Doughty, National Coordinator for Balance the New Zealand Bi-polar Network, said improved access to a range of medications that can be used to treat people with bi-polar disorder was critical. “Bi-polar disorder can be a devastating illness for consumers/tangata whaiora and their families/whanau but ongoing treatment allows people to continue with their lives without constant concerns about the effects of medication changes.”

In addition to changes to access criteria Zyprexa will now be available in a rapidly dissolving wafer form for community-based patients. This gives the psychiatrist a wider variety of choices including tablet, wafer and fast-acting injectable format for acutely unwell patients to ensure the medicine is delivered in the most appropriate format.

Eli Lilly NZ Country Manager James Sleigh said the agreement was a very positive step in the treatment of mental illness in New Zealand. ”Mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia can be extremely complex to manage. We are delighted to be able to provide patients with the security and on-going commitment they require from a highly effective treatment.”


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