Media Release – 22 December 2017
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand (MSNZ) is pleased that Medsafe has approved the registration of ocrelizumab (Ocrevus®) for both Relapsing (RMS) and Primary Progressive (PPMS) multiple sclerosis (MS) in New Zealand.
Earlier this year MSNZ made two submissions to PHARMAC to request the inclusion of ocrelizumab on the Pharmaceutical Schedule for reimbursement. The Society awaits the outcome of the reviews expected to be held early in 2018.
“This is a great way to finish the year and a step in the right direction to slowing and potentially halting the progression of MS for many people who until now have had no access to treatments,” commented MSNZ Vice President Neil Woodhams. “This approval brings hope to many New Zealanders and we look forward to the outcome of PHARMACs meetings next year at which funding for ocrelizumab will be reviewed.”
MSNZ also hopes that PHARMAC will add ocrelizumab to the treatment options available for Relapsing MS. “There is a sub group of people with RMS who have fewer treatment options available due to being positive for the JC Virus which can cause a life-threatening brain disease. Ocrelizumab has been shown to be a good option for those who are JCV positive and we would welcome its inclusion,” says Woodhams.
“If PHARMAC approves funding for ocrelizumab we hope they will also approve proposals we have made regarding widening the access criteria which, at present, are restrictive and not in line with current research. MSNZ has a submission lodged with PHARMAC, requesting a widening of current criteria. Latest international research would justify such a move.” says Woodhams. As with all MS treatments currently available, ocrelizumab isn’t designed to be a cure but halts the progression of disability cause by the condition. “We hope PHARMAC will recognise the evidence of the long-term benefits for people with MS that this treatment can bring, keeping people active and engaged in their families, communities and the workforce.”
Graham Walker who was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS five years ago is one of 20 New Zealanders receiving ocrelizumab as part of a compassionate programme for the past 2 months, “It’s incredible the improvements I have found to my daily life and mobility, particularly in ways I didn’t expect. I can now clap my hands palm to palm when previously my right palm clapped the back of my left hand, and I no longer drag my foot when I walk.” Walker is optimistic but also realistic about the treatment. “I hope ocrelizumab will continue to halt the progression of my condition and disability. I know it is not a cure but I hope it will enable me to stay active doing the things I love for longer like playing with my young grandchildren and cycling. I’m an optimistic person usually but this treatment has given me so much more hope for a bright future and will hopefully do the same for many more New Zealanders.”