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Neurological Advisory Committee Recommends Migraine Medications Receive High Priority Funding

Migraine Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes Pharmac’s Neurological Advisory Committee recommendation that migraine-specific medications should be funded with a high priority.

At its September meeting, the Committee reviewed the evidence for funding galcanezumab (Emgality), erenumab (Aimovig) and atogepant (Qulipta) for chronic and episodic migraine. All three medications were developed specifically to prevent migraine, and target calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which is involved in triggering migraine attacks.

Migraine Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand submitted a consumer application to Pharmac to fund Emgality in November 2022. Following the submission, Migraine Foundation continued to engage with Pharmac about the application. In September, Foundation members were invited to present at the Neurological Advisory Committee meeting.

“We’re thrilled the committee has made this funding recommendation, and to be recommended with a high priority is the best outcome at this stage of the process,” Sarah Cahill, Migraine Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand co-founder says.

“About 642,000 people in New Zealand have migraine, and it’s the fourth largest cause of disability in New Zealand. Until these anti- CGRP medications were developed, people with migraine have had to rely on medications designed to treat other conditions, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy to try and prevent migraine attacks. Often these have terrible side effects or aren’t very effective.”

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“There are thousands of people in New Zealand whose lives would improve exponentially if these medications were funded. Some people in New Zealand have been paying for one or another of these out of pocket (two are currently on the market in New Zealand), but for thousands of others who would benefit, spending hundreds of dollars on a 4-weekly injection isn’t something they can afford,” Sarah says.

One of the CGRP medications, Aimovig, was considered for funding by Pharmac’s PTAC in August 2021 (before Migraine Foundation was established), and was recommended for funding with a low priority for people with chronic migraine only.

The high priority recommendation received for all three migraine medications, plus the highest priority for both chronic and episodic migraine, is a huge win for the migraine community, and underscores the urgent need for access to migraine-specific, effective and safe medications.

The recommendations will now be considered by Pharmac using its Factors for Consideration framework and internal economic assessments. If Pharmac does decide to add these medications to its list of ‘options for investment’ at a high priority, it’s then a wait for Pharmac to choose to make that investment, depending on its level of budget, and enter into negotiations with the relevant pharmaceutical companies.

There's a long road ahead but it brings New Zealand one step closer to catching up with Australia, Canada and the UK, where anti-CGRP medications are already available and funded.

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