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Patients not offered the best treatment

17 June 2008

Patients not offered the best treatment

NZ could do better with chronic conditions if new drugs were available

New Zealanders with conditions such as Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s and brain tumours may not have access to available medications because of funding constraints, NZ Medical Association chairman Dr Peter Foley told an important health sector forum in Wellington today.

He told delegates that the system for accessing some of the new high cost, highly specialized medicines was confusing.

The ground-breaking conference in Wellington has brought groups including consumer organizations, officials, and medical specialists, to search for a fair solution to the problem of funding high-cost, highly specialised medicines. The conference, in association with the NZ Medical Association, the Access to Medicines Coalition and the Research Medicine Industry Association, aims to get all players working towards a set of guidelines which can make the process fair.

Dr Foley said that where Government could not fully fund a new medicine, it could permit partial funding, as that opened up a range of options to patients. ``If a drug is not on Pharmac’s schedule, for the most part insurance companies and ACC ignore it. If it was funded just a little bit it opens whole new avenues for patients to access the medication.’’

Dr Foley also challenged DHB’s to be part of the solution for affordable access to new highly-specialised medicines, saying they have a responsibility to care for their communities and at the moment they may be escaping that responsibility.

The conference began with stories from three people directly affected by lack of access to these high cost medicines, including Aucklander Steve Koerber who considered moving his family to Australia to access the treatment needed for his severe arthritis. He now pays almost $25,000 a year for drugs which allow him to continue working and have good quality of life.

A similar collaborative forum was held in Australia last year, where it led to changes in the funding system that gave more patients access to high cost, highly specilalised medicines.


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