Over 200 medical professionals launch petition calling for better medication for bowel disease

A petition has been launched by over 200 medical professionals calling on PHARMAC to urgently fund better medication to help New Zealanders with bowel disease. 

The group, made up of surgeons, scientists and nurses, are describing the lack of treatment available as a 'national disgrace'.

Every second Thursday, Belinda Brown has to inject herself with medication.

"It feels like someone is sticking a knife into my gut," she said.

Brown has Crohn's Disease, a life-altering inflammatory illness where the bowel is attacked by the immune system. 

She has had two surgeries to remove around 60 centimetres of her bowel but her painful symptoms are life-long.  

"Times I'll go upwards of 10, 20 times a day to the toilet sometimes passing blood and mucus."

She says it's support from her husband and daughter that helps her live with the illness.

More than 20,000 New Zealanders have Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 

The medication Belinda injects herself with is one of just two biological therapies available in New Zealand.

But Otago University medicine professor Richard Gerry says they don't work forever. 

"If patients are on these drugs for a period of time, then their own body's immune system makes an antibody to the antibody, and neutralises it and then the drug doesn't work anymore," he said.

"If you were anywhere else in the world, you'd have three, four, five other options."

That's why more than 200 medical professionals have launched a petition asking PHARMAC to urgently fund two more medications that are already being used overseas.  

"As medical professionals, we are not only frustrated we are angry at this point," Crohn's and Colitis NZ chair Richard Stein said.

PHARMAC's medical director Dr Ken Clark said they have heard about the need for further treatment options and have received and assessed funding applications for other treatment options. But Dr Clark said PHARMAC has to work within its budget.

"PHARMAC works to get the best health outcomes for New Zealanders we can by funding medicines from within the available budget. 

"While we recognise the challenges faced by patients and their whānau, and their understandable desire to try new treatments, our job is to look at all the evidence and make a decision that is in the interests of all New Zealanders."

He said they already fund several medications for the management of inflammatory bowel disease.

Now Belinda Brown's waiting to hear whether new medication options could make that easier for herself and others. 

Sign the petition here.