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New “package” to help treat people with Epilepsy

Doctors given new “package” to help treat people with epilepsy

PHARMAC has announced a series of changes that will give doctors more resources to treat people with epilepsy.

The package means it is going to be easier for patients to be prescribed the new style epilepsy medicines, and it also means any GP can prescribe these new treatments.

This follows a series of improvements in the area of epilepsy treatment, with PHARMAC actively surveying doctors to find out what they thought was needed in this area.

PHARMAC Medical Director Peter Moodie says the move reflects PHARMAC’s aim to make sure doctors have the resources they need to effectively treat epilepsy.

“We surveyed doctors to find out what was needed for better treatment of patients with epilepsy – and we’ve taken on board what they have told us.”

Peter Moodie says as a result more people with epilepsy now have access to more new treatments than ever before.

PHARMAC has announced it will fully fund topiramate (pron:toe-PUR-a-mate) from September 1. This means patients now have access to three fully funded new anti-epilepsy drugs, with the other two new drugs being lamotrigine and vigabatrin. Besides these, there are 12 older style anti-epilepsy drugs used to manage the illness.

He says spending on these new epilepsy drugs has also increased almost five-fold in the last five years – despite the number of patients staying stable.

“Although the number of people with epilepsy hasn’t increased in the past five years, the amount spent on subsidised new drugs for epilepsy has grown in that time from $950,000 to $4.35 million this year.”

Peter Moodie says another positive development is that now any GP can write a prescription for the three anti-epilepsy drugs. Previously, only approved doctors could prescribe these drugs. Although the initial treatment must still be approved by a specialist, which was also the case previously.

“These decisions are all part of PHARMAC’s ongoing commitment to ensure patients with epilepsy are getting the best possible treatment they can. More patients are going to have access to newer agents, while the fact that any GP can prescribe adds to the widened access.”

About 27,000 New Zealanders have epilepsy, and currently about 2000 patients are being treated by one of the newer agents. It is estimated that following the decision to fund topiramate the numbers will triple to about 6000.
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