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Steps Forward For People With Alzheimer’s Disease

May 9, 2002

Associate Minister of Health, Hon. Ruth Dyson today facilitated a process by which the Alzheimer’s Coalition will enter a dialogue with PHARMAC regarding key facts related to anti-Alzheimer medications.

“This is a positive step forward and we are pleased the Minister and PHARMAC recognise the urgency of these discussions,” said Karen Hyland, spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Coalition – a group representing over 90,000 New Zealanders.

A working party, of clinical experts and interested parties, will also meet with PHARMAC within the next month to examine the facts, human elements and criteria for access to the medication.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition, which causes the progressive decline of mental ability, behaviour and the capability to live independently. It eventually limits the ability to function in day-to-day life until full-time care is needed.

It is estimated that 17,000 to 21,000 New Zealanders are currently afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. For every person living with the disease, between two and five people are directly affected by the support required.

Approximately 2,000 people die of Alzheimer’s disease each year.
“A process like this, involving key interest groups and decision makers, is directly in line with the Health of Older People Strategy, to be released next week,” said Hon. Ruth Dyson.

“Anti-Alzheimer medications are capable of temporarily reversing or delaying the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Phil Wood, Auckland Geriatrician and member of the Alzheimer’s Coalition.
Dr Wood says clinical evidence suggests that anti-Alzheimer medications reduce the amount of care needed and improve the quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
Medications can reduce behavioural complications - allowing people to maintain their independence and dignity. “This improves their quality of life and the lives of those caring for them,” Dr Wood said.

“There are sound social and economic reasons for health funds to be invested in these medications and we are pleased to be working with PHARMAC to address these issues,“ said Karen Hyland.

“All we ask is that people be given the opportunity to receive treatment that may delay the progression of the disease. A few extra months or years of improved quality of life is priceless not only to the person taking the medication, but to family members as well.’

Some 30 countries including Australia, the UK and France currently subsidise anti-Alzheimer medications.


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