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MS in the News: Funded treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis

June 26, 2023 | Media, Progressive

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac has started a consultation today for widening access for two treatments; ocrelizumab (branded as Ocrevus) as the first funded treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, and emicizumab (branded as Hemlibra) for the treatment of all people with severe haemophilia A.

“We understand people living with these conditions are currently experiencing considerable unmet health needs,” says Pharmac’s acting Director, Pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbon. “We’re pleased to be able to consider funding medicines that could increase their quality of life. We want to hear from people affected by these conditions, their whānau, and treating healthcare practitioners to ensure the outcomes of this process meet their needs.”

Primary progressive multiple sclerosis is a type of multiple sclerosis that affects 10-15% of people with multiple sclerosis. This type of the condition causes numerous sensory and physical symptoms and impacts physical and cognitive abilities over time. Primary progressive MS causes symptoms to get gradually and consistently worse, rather than people experiencing relapses with a later recovery as with relapsing-remitting MS.

“Ocrelizumab, which slows the progression of symptoms, would be the first treatment funded for primary progressive multiple sclerosis. This would support improved quality of life for about 85 people in the first year of funding, increasing to approximately 210 people each year after five years,” says Ms MacGibbon.

National Manager of Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand, Amanda Rose was delighted to hear about the consultation, sharing that it will providing the hope that their community has been searching for. “This is a momentous day for the treatment of the most disabling form of multiple sclerosis. If the proposal is approved, New Zealand would be the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to provide funded access to this medicine for primary progressive multiple sclerosis. We will be supporting Pharmac to share this consultation to ensure we have input into the decision.”

Ocrelizumab is administered by an intravenous (IV) infusion. The first two doses are given two weeks apart, followed by maintenance dosing every 6 months.

“Ocrelizumab and emicizumab have been on our options for investment list as medicines we would like to fund for these conditions, so we are pleased we have secured the provisional agreement with their supplier, Roche,” concludes Ms MacGibbon.

General Manager of Roche Products (New Zealand) Ltd Alex Muelhaupt says, “It’s wonderful news that a wider group of New Zealanders are now a step closer to accessing these treatments. We want to acknowledge the work done by the NZ multiple sclerosis and haemophilia communities over the years, leading to this consultation.”

The consultation for today’s proposal is available on the Pharmac website for anyone wanting to give us their feedback. If approved, funded access to ocrelizumab and emicizumab would be widened from 1 October 2023.