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Political Lead Needed Over Diabetes Drug Delay

Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa says it is surprised to learn Pharmac did not consider critical diabetes medicines at its Board meeting this week, despite holding extensive additional consultation over the past month.

The Foundation says political leadership is now needed following a series of delays by the agency to make available cheap and lifechanging medicines to the 250,000 type-2 diabetes patients throughout New Zealand.

Chairman Dr John Baker says:

“We’re devastated at the delay. This is an impasse that Pharmac cannot resolve without political guidance and more funding.

“The scale of the problem, which the Ministry of Health wrestles with daily, is not reflected in the miserable scale of Pharmac’s proposal to provide medicine to only 50,000 patients.

“The diabetes sector won’t accept the ethical dilemma of choosing between patients who would all see large improvements on these easily affordable medicines.

“After years of waiting, diabetes patients and the medical community were expecting these medicines to be made available from the new year.”

A funding decision for empagliflozin and dulaglutide released in September this year was delayed after Pharmac’s proposal was rejected by health professionals. Since then, Pharmac has been consulting widely with the medical community on an alternative.

“With Pharmac caught in a quandary of their own making, it is time for our politicians to find a way forward. Our 250,000 diabetes patients and their whanau cannot wait any longer,” says Dr Baker.

Key information:

  • New Zealand and Serbia are the only developed countries who do not use SGLT-2 inhibitors (such as empagliflozin) and GLP-1 receptor agonists (such as dulaglutide) as standard treatments for type-2 diabetes.
  • Type-2 diabetes is an area of high health inequity, with 40 per cent of patients being of Maori, Pasifika or South Asian background.
  • The number of people with diabetes in New Zealand is increasing, and has grown by over 50,000 people since 2010.
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors such as empagliflozin and GLP-1 receptor agonists such as dulaglutide have been available internationally since 2013 and 2005 respectively.
  • Every year approximately 800 New Zealanders die of complications resulting from type-2 diabetes.

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