July 27, 2022 | Media
The Government’s being urged to get a move on and approve a stem-cell treatment for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).
A petition was presented to Parliament on Tuesday, calling for the Health Minister to fund the treatment which has shown to halt some of the debilitating symptoms of the disease.
Three years ago Anne Besley never thought she’d be standing outside Parliament with her mum. She was in constant pain and could barely walk.
“I’m not on drugs anymore, I’m able to work part-time. I hardly ever need the crutches and there are days when I have to think hard about do I actually have MS,” Besley said.
“It’s all thanks to a self-funded trip to India in 2019 for expensive stem-cell treatment.”
It was treatment that allowed Besley to get her life back.
That same year Wellingtonian Karyn Bishop spent more than $120,000 getting the same treatment in Russia.
She couldn’t walk unaided before she left, but a year later she managed a kilometre walk around a park.
“There’s so many people that miss out on it because they simply can’t afford it. We’re spending thousands on drugs that only work for a certain percentage of people and this treatment has been shown to work.”
The treatment works by harvesting stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow.
Chemotherapy is given to shut down the faulty immune system before the stem cells are put back in to grow a new immune system.
But at present it’s only available for blood cancer patients.
On Tuesday the ACT Party accepted a petition with 10,000 signatures urging the Government to extend the treatment to MS.
“I would like to see more forward planning in New Zealand about the newer medicines that we are falling behind the rest of the world on,” said ACT’s deputy leader Brooke van Velden.
Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman, who has MS, said it’s a no-brainer.
“It is concerning to me that people are having to buy this medicine, essential medicine, on the free market. We have a healthcare system.”
Health Minister Andrew Little acknowledged the treatment shows positive results but said it is up to the drug-buying agency Pharmac to decide what drugs are funded.