New Zealand migraine sufferers wait for 'game-changer' drug

Kiwi migraine sufferers will have to wait years before being able to access a Pharmac-funded drug that doctors here describe as a "game-changer".

While the new pill is set to be available for free in the UK, and at a cost in Australia, New Zealanders with the disorder are left waiting.

Amanda Lowe has suffered from migraine attacks all her life - her worst was in December when she vomited for six straight hours.

"I couldn't function without being on preventative medication. I couldn't work if I wasn't on preventative medication," she told Newshub.

And that costs her a lot. Amongst the many medications she takes is an injectable one called Emgality which costs her around $300 a month. But she has paid a whopping $1400 a month before.

"I was pretty desperate at the time. I was getting migraines every 21 days," Lowe told Newshub.

"We need better options. We need options which are safer, more tolerable and that actually work better," said Dr Fiona Imlach from Migraine Foundation Aotearoa.

And many believe that drug is atogepant (Qulipta).

It's a daily, oral pill that contains neuroprotein blockers that stop peptides from attaching to nerve cell receptors, preventing a migraine from developing.

"There are some people who actually go into remission, and this is way better than the other alternative treatments that we've had in the past," Dr Imlach said.

Atogepant is already available in the United States and has just been funded by UK's national health system.

It's currently under consideration by our drug funding agency Pharmac, but those suffering from debilitating migraines shouldn't get too excited.

Doctors say it could take potentially seven to eight years to get access to the medication.

"We're in step six out of 17 steps to get a funding application through, and so we know it's going to be years before we actually get these funded," Dr Imlach said.

It's just one of many medications Kiwis are unable to access due to the cost.

New Zealand ranked at the bottom of OECD countries for the number of publicly-funded registered medicines.

"I know lots of people that suffer terrible migraines and they have no access to this medication and it's devastating," Lowe said.

"It's not just migraines, right? There are so many people, who potentially their lives could be much improved - transformed - if they had access to modern medicines," Dr Imlach said.