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$18m to help relieve neuropathic pain

23 June 2005

$18m to help relieve neuropathic pain

PHARMAC is committing more than $18 million over the next three years to provide gabapentin to people with severe neuropathic pain.

The increased access to gabapentin (Neurontin), which is already subsidised as a treatment for epilepsy, follows an agreement being reached with Pfizer.

A common example of neuropathic pain is “phantom limb syndrome”, when people experience pain from a limb that has been amputated. Neuropathic pain can also be experienced by people who have suffered spinal injuries, or by people with diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or who have undergone cancer chemotherapy.

PHARMAC Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie says gabapentin’s funding for neuropathic pain will be welcomed by clinicians seeking further treatment options.

“There are now more than 25 subsidised pain relief treatments available, from paracetamol and aspirin up to more potent treatments such as morphine and fentanyl,” Dr Moodie says. “However, the addition of gabapentin will offer another useful funded option for doctors and patients.”

Dr Moodie says the decision to widen access to gabapentin follows considerable work by both PHARMAC and Pfizer.

PHARMAC estimates between 3000 and 5000 people will be prescribed subsidised gabapentin.

A new product, fentanyl patches was subsidised in 2004, and PHARMAC has also begun consultation on a proposal to list oxycodone as a further analgesia option.

Access to gabapentin will be widened from 1 July 2005.


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