Pharmac to fund MS treatment

  • 29/01/2016

A decision by Pharmac to fund a treatment to help sufferers of multiple sclerosis has been praised by those allowed to trial the drug.

From February 1, Pharmac will be subsidising the drug Tecfidera, which aims to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis, which has on-and-off-again symptoms.

Without a subsidy, the medication, which has been available in Australia for about than two years, would cost patients tens of thousands of dollars a year.

The disease affects about 3000 New Zealanders.

Consultant Jayne-Ann Young, who has been on the trial leading up the drug's approval, said she was thrilled it had been subsidised.

"I'm absolutely delighted the other 3000 patients who this drug could potentially work for could have access to this, to live the life they want," she said.

Ms Young, a 54-year-old mother of two, has suffered from the disease for about 15 years.

It has at times impaired her ability to walk, on occasion left her blind and reduced feeling around her body.

"Before I was on the drug, I was having intermittent losses of my remission. It was occurring. If I was tracking it, I would have been getting progressively worse," she said.

She said she had seen a dramatic improvement in her condition since going on the trial and has been in remission - without symptoms - for about seven years.

"I haven't had any loss of strength, my walking is fine, my sensitivity hasn't changed. It's enabled a stability in my symptoms which has allowed me to live my life," she said.

"It's not a silver bullet. It won't cure MS, but it gives me peace of mind that there is something for us."

She said she was now on an extension of the trial to determine if there were any long-term effects.

Neurologist Dr Ernest Willoughby said because different forms of multiple sclerosis had different symptoms and required different treatments, it was important to keep a number of options open for treatment.