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New data supports case for funding MabThera®(

New data supports case for funding MabThera®(rituximab)

News release
10 November 2008

New data presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting in San Francisco is good news for New Zealanders suffering from moderate to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), who have failed to respond to the most commonly prescribed biologic treatment.

RA is a painful and debilitating condition that affects the joints and can cause crippling deformities. However treatment with MabThera, which is also a biological therapy, has been shown to improve RA symptoms with each repeat course.¹

In addition, the number of patients achieving remission from their disease doubled over three successive treatment courses with MabThera. 1

One of the benefits of taking MabThera is that patients only need to have one or two courses of the medicine each year. Each course involves giving one intravenous infusion, followed by a second infusion two weeks later. 2

However, despite being given a medium to high priority for funding by PHARMAC’s therapeutic committee, PTAC, in November of last year3, MabThera remains unfunded in New Zealand - much to the disappointment of arthritis specialists and their patients.

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers in Australia currently have access to six different biological treatments4, while in comparison, RA sufferers in New Zealand only have access to one funded biological therapy, which is not effective for all patients.

The President of the New Zealand Rheumatology Association, and Consultant Rheumatologist at Hutt Hospital, Dr Andrew Harrison, says “New Zealand’s ability to provide modern treatments for arthritis lags a long way behind other countries with whom we might think we have an equivalent standard of healthcare.”

“There is an urgent need for second line biological treatment options for RA, for patients who have failed treatment with Humira, the existing biological therapy that is funded by PHARMAC.”

Dr Harrison says some DHBs are funding MabThera on a case by case basis, which has resulted in inequality of access around the country.

For severe RA patients that have failed other treatments, MabThera is a well tolerated, effective2 and is a cost-effective treatment5, when compared to other biological therapies.


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