Living with MS
DMD availability in New Zealand
In New Zealand there are two processes whereby medications become available to people. In the first instance, Medsafe, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, (a business unit of the Ministry of Health and the authority responsible for the regulation and safety of therapeutic products), has to first approve a medication for sale in this country. This will generally be on the basis of its proven efficacy and overall safety in relation to its use in a particular disease. All the disease-modifying treatments have been approved in this way.
For a medication to be affordable it has to then be approved for funding by PHARMAC (the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand). When PHARMAC approves a medication, it is available either at a very low cost to the patient or free of charge.
A medication can be Medsafe approved but not necessarily funded by PHARMAC.
In New Zealand only Betaferon®, Avonex® and Copaxone® are currently funded by PHARMAC for use in relapsing-remitting MS.
Rebif® (also interferon-beta 1a) is approved as an MS treatment by Medsafe, but it is not funded by PHARMAC. This means that it is only available privately here, so anyone taking it would have to self-fund their treatment.
The very new form of MS treatment, Tysabri® (Natalizumbab), has been approved here by Medsafe, but like Rebif®, it is not funded by PHARMAC.
A fifth drug, Novantrone®, (mitozantrone hydrochloride for injection) has also been used to treat some people with progressive types of MS. It is given at the recommendation of the treating neurologist by intravenous infusion in hospital.