Pharmac petition calling for better bowel disease medication reaches over 25k signatures

A petition backed by medical professionals asking Pharmac for better access to bowel disease medication that's available overseas has reached more than 25,000 signatures.

There are limited therapies on offer in New Zealand and if they don't work surgery is often the only option and it comes with a risk of impacting fertility.

For Emma Taylor going about her work-day wasn't always as easy as it is now.

The now-30-year-old was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, when she was just 25.

"It's a lot like food poisoning symptoms except like 10 times worse, so I was like running to the bathroom, vomiting heaps," she says.

Doctors spent six months trying every medication currently on offer to help her but nothing worked.

"They suggested surgery was, you know, like my only option," she says.

Now Taylor has something called a 'J-pouch'. Her colon has been removed and a small piece of intestine was used to connect everything back up.

The surgery has significantly minimised her symptoms but it does come with a small risk to fertility - about a 5-10 percent chance.

"I was young, I was single, I was like 'yeah, that doesn't matter'. It kind of didn't go through my head," Taylor says.

New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology president Malcolm Arnold hopes for change.

"You just want rid of this horrible horrible condition you've got," he says.

"If on the other hand we had medication which would allow that risk to be not at all, because you didn't need the operation, then we would be very very welcoming of that."

That's one of the reasons medical professionals are asking Pharmac to urgently fund two medications that are commonly used to treat Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis overseas.

"These patients work really hard to stay well, they change their diets, their lifestyle, they take their medications and when we run out of options we have to choose surgery for their wellness," clinical nurse specialist Jacqui Stone says.

Pharmac says it chooses medicine funding applications that deliver the best possible health outcomes within its fixed budget. It seeks public feedback on medicines it is proposing to fund but petitions do not generally play a part in decision making.

Taylor is yet to find out whether surgery impacted her chances of having children but says she would have tried everything else if there had been other drugs.

"They tried everything they could before going ahead with surgery so yeah if those other options were there, then definitely 100 percent I would have taken that opportunity," she tells Newshub.

And she wants those faced with the same decision to have another choice.

You can sign the petition here.