Saturday, May 25, 2024

More medicines funded for New Zealanders

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac has today announced decisions to fund two new medicines and widen access to one other.

These medicines provide a wide range of benefits that will support New Zealanders in living longer, healthier lives, Pharmac said in a statement.

The medicines announced for funding today include:

  • – Nusinersen (Spinraza) for the rare disorder, spinal muscular atrophy
  • – Meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero) widened access for tamariki and for rangatahi living in specified close living situations
  • – Oral vinorelbine (Vinorelbine Te Arai), an oral form of an anti-cancer medicine to improve access equity.

“We are really pleased to announce that this medicine will be funded for New Zealanders – it will make a substantial difference to peoples’ lives,” says Pharmac’s Director of Operations, Lisa Williams.

“We estimate that in the first year 30 to 50 young people will be eligible for funded treatment, and we expect the number of people receiving treatment to increase over time.

“We want to thank everyone who gave us feedback on our proposal to fund nusinersen. We have carefully considered all the elements that people commented on, including eligibility, definitions and access. We’ve made some changes to criteria as a result, and we plan to seek more clinical advice in early 2023 on the requests we received for expanded access.

“We continue to work with Rare Disorders NZ, our Rare Disorders Advisory Committee, and the wider health sector on how we continue to support the rare disorders community to access the medicines they need.”

  • Pharmac has approved funding of nusinersen (Spinraza) for the rare genetic disorder, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Nusinersen is the first medicine for SMA funded in New Zealand. People aged 18 years and under who have pre-symptomatic, or symptomatic type I, II or IIIa spinal muscular atrophy, and meet certain criteria will be eligible for the treatment.
  • Funding of nusinersen will begin from 1 January 2023.

It will fund the meningococcal B vaccine (Bexsero) to protect more young people against meningococcal disease. Access to the vaccine will be widened to children up to 12 months and for people aged 13 to 25 years who are entering into or in their first year of specified close-living situations. Catch-up programmes for children under five years and rangatahi already living in close-living situations will also be funded.

“We’re grateful for all of the feedback we received, and we and our sector partners will use this information to support an effective rollout of the meningococcal B vaccine in early 2023,” says Ms Williams.

“Meningococcal disease has an inequitable impact on Māori and Pacific children, so we will work with Te Whatu Ora to support their implementation of the programmes to benefit Māori and Pacific people.

“We appreciate that there are other groups who could benefit from this vaccine, including people in other types of close living situations. We will be seeking advice from our clinical experts about other widened access options for people in close living situations.”

Funding for the two proposals announced today will come into effect from 1 March 2023.

Funding of an oral version of vinorelbine, a chemotherapy medicine used to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, was also announced.

“We heard from the consultation feedback that this is a more convenient treatment option and will have a positive impact for people and their whānau, particularly those who live further away from hospital. This decision will allow these people to spend less time in hospital and spend more time with their whānau, doing activities they love,” says Ms Williams.

“This decision supports medicine access equity, which is an important goal for us and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Oral vinorelbine will be funded and available from 1 May 2023.

“Pharmac is committed to using our budget increase, announced in May 2022, to fund as many treatments on our options for investment list as possible,” says Ms Williams.

“By notifying the public about these decisions today we are confirming that we have come to an agreement with the supplier and will be fully funding these medicines for New Zealanders.”

Health Minister, Andrew Little welcomed news that more important medicines are to be publicly funded.

“Today’s announcement that Pharmac will fully fund Spinraza for people under the age of 18 is great news,” said Health Minister, Andrew Little.

“Spinraza is the first medicine for spinal muscular atrophy to be funded, and has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of the young people who receive it.

“Coming on top of Pharmac’s announcement on Sunday that it proposes funding Trikafta for people with cystic fibrosis, this is real evidence that the extra money we’re putting into the health system and into medicines is paying real dividends for people with rare diseases,” he said.

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