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Health System Hardly Enviable for People with Arthrisis

Health System Hardly the ‘Envy of the World’ for People with Arthritis

Thursday 10 August, 2017 - On the contrary, Kiwis with arthritis envy patients in other countries, says Arthritis New Zealand’s CEO Sandra Kirby.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said on Tuesday that our health system is the envy of the world and performing well compared with other countries.

Ms Kirby said many of the 624,000 Kiwis living with arthritis could only live in hope of better access to rheumatologists and medications.

“Our health system is not world-class, from their perspective. On the contrary, many envy the provisions made for people with arthritis in other parts of the world.

“It’s well-known there is a shortage of rheumatologists in New Zealand, for example, and access to an arthritis specialist very much depends on where you live,” she said.

People with some forms of arthritis might never see a rheumatologist, even if this is best practice, while others have to wait a long time between visits to a specialist.

“Delays like this only cause further distress and joint damage for people who are already living in pain,” Ms Kirby said.

The internationally recommended ratio is one rheumatologist for 100,000 people. In many parts of the country there are well over 200,000 people for each available specialist.

As for medications, Ms Kirby said patients in New Zealand are at the end of the queue for cost-effective innovative medicines compared with other countries. Five of the latest biologic arthritis medications are not funded in New Zealand at present and six approved by the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) are still waiting for funding.

“Early treatment for arthritis is essential to prevent irreversible damage and improve patients’ quality of life. Besides, it makes sense when you consider the economic burden of arthritis, which is only going to increase as the number of people with arthritis grows,” Ms Kirby said.

Arthritis New Zealand’s election manifesto calls for improved access to medications and rheumatologists, among other recommendations to improve the lives of those living with arthritis.


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