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Health Announcements Slammed by Pompe Disease Patients

Health Announcements Slammed by Pompe Disease Patients

The announcements made by Prime Minister Bill English in Wairarapa this week have been slammed by patients suffering with Pompe Disease.

Pompe Disease is an extremely rare inherited and fatal disease for which there is no cure.

Only eleven people in New Zealand are currently known to be sufferers.

The only treatment available is an enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) that the Government refuses to fund.

Mrs Allyson Lock who was diagnosed with the disease in 2010 has been refused treatment despite several applications and an appeal to Pharmac, the Government body that funds medicines.

Mrs Lock criticised the PM's claims about access to new drugs.

“Mr English told the audience that we now have access to new drugs which for quite a while New Zealanders couldn't access”, Mrs Lock said.

“Myozyme is the only treatment available for Pompe disease patients like me, yet Pharmac refuses to fund it. It is funded for Infantile Onset Pompe Disease patients here, but we don’t have any! The 11 patients still surviving have Adult Onset Pompe Disease, and we have all been refused funding”.

Mrs Lock said that Pharmac's standard response has been that the benefit to the patient is not worth the cost to the Government, and that there is not enough proof the medicine works. This is despite nearly 80 countries around the world making Myozyme available to their patients with Pompe. Mr English claims that he is committed to world class health services. Countries like Algeria pay for the treatment yet New Zealand won't “.

Mrs Lock has been given charitable access to the treatment by the manufacturers, Sanofi Genzyme, but she wants to see the Government do the right thing by other New Zealanders also suffering with Pompe Disease. “New Zealand is a first world country and the government tells us that we have a big surplus of money. But people are still dying of Pompe disease. How is this allowed to happen”? she said.

Signs & Symptoms of Pompe Disease

The signs and symptoms of Pompe disease vary widely and may first emerge at any age from infancy to late adulthood. These sample patient experiences illustrate how the disease can affect different people differently:

• A 3-month-old baby is admitted to the hospital with breathing problems brought on by a bad cold. An x-ray reveals a greatly enlarged heart.

• A 2-year-old child who has just started walking has an odd walk that is a cross between a waddle and a limp. As an infant, he had trouble turning over and holding up his head.

• A 20-year-old woman becomes winded and her muscles ache when she climbs a flight of stairs.

• A 37-year-old man starts falling asleep during the day and has trouble breathing when he is lying down.

In all cases, Pompe disease is caused by the same underlying problem: an enzyme deficiency that causes build up of excess glycogen within muscle cells. However, the resulting muscle weakness can affect many different parts of the body and cause a variety of health problems. In some cases, the initial impact may be very serious and progress (worsen) rapidly, while in others it will be less extreme and progress more gradually.

Most Common Effects of Pompe Disease

Although the effects of Pompe disease vary from patient to patient, some broad generalizations can be made. Most patients experience muscle weakness in the arms and legs, usually most prominently in the legs, making walking or climbing stairs difficult. Muscles used for breathing are also often affected, making it difficult to breathe, especially when lying down. In infants, the heart is usually affected, resulting in greatly enlarged heart and other heart problems.

Infants typically have extreme muscle weakness and a “floppy” appearance. X-rays usually reveal a greatly enlarged heart. Other symptoms include breathing difficulties, trouble feeding, and a failure to meet developmental milestones such as rolling over and sitting up.

Children and adults tend to have greater variety in their symptoms, often including weakness of the leg and hip muscles, leading to difficulties with mobility, as well as breathing difficulties. Older patients rarely have the heart problems typical in infants.

Describing the Disease

Today, Pompe disease is usually described as a single disease that manifests as a spectrum of symptoms and rates of progression across patients of different ages. However, sometimes terms are used such as “infantile-onset” and “late-onset,” which were historically used to describe the disease in terms of “sub-types” based on patient age at onset of symptoms.

Ongoing Disease Progression

Pompe disease is always progressive, meaning that its symptoms worsen over time. In general, the earlier in life the symptoms appear, the faster the rate of progression. Most infants affected by the disease experience very rapid progression, and they rarely survive past the age of 1 year.

When symptoms first appear later in life (children or adults), the rate of progression is generally slower than in infants, although there is great variability across different people. In addition, an abrupt and rapid decline can happen at any time, so careful monitoring of the disease’s progression is very important. Whether the disease progresses quickly or slowly, movement and breathing difficulties worsen over time.

If you require more information on Pompe Disease, please visit our website;


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