Patients Multiple sclerosis
Two new drugs to fight multiple sclerosis may keep sufferers out of wheelchairs
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Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand (MSNZ) said Pharmac's decision to fund two more first-line treatments to fight the central nervous system disease could help to prevent some sufferers from ending up in wheelchairs.
Pharmac announced it would fund dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) and teriflunomide (Aubagio) from first diagnosis for some patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosisfrom February 1, 2016.
A year ago, it approved funding for two other new treatments, natalizumab (Tysabri) and fingolimod (Gilenya), for people with relapsing-remitting MS who met the same criteria.
MSNZ spokesman Neil Woodhams said 471 people with multiple sclerosis had started using the first two new treatments during the past year, which were proving "life-changing" for many because they halted the disease's progression.
"There's a real chance with these drugs that they will never go into a wheelchair."
He said it was a young person's disease with an average age of 32 when first diagnosed.
Depression went hand-in-hand for many sufferers because of the fear of ending up wheelchair-bound, Woodhams said.
About 4000 people had the disease in New Zealand, but only about a third or a quarter met the criteria for the new drugs.
He said the organisation had asked Pharmac to widen its entry and exit criteria for MS treatments because it believed it was too strict and prevented many from accessing care.
"There needs to be some flexibility. New Zealand is the only country to have such stringent exit criteria under the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS)."
Regardless, adding two new drugs to the treatment options meant more options for sufferers, particularly if they were unsuited to one of the other drugs, Woodhams said.
About half those taking Tysabri would have to switch medications after a few years because that drug commonly had significant side-effects.
Pharmac's operations director, Sarah Fitt, said about 800 patients received multiple sclerosis treatments in New Zealand and they could chose to stay on their existing treatment or switch to a new one.
"We are encouraging patients to have a discussion with their health care professional about the new treatment options available, and whether dimethyl fumarate or teriflunomide may be an appropriate option for them."
Interesting research and positive work in New Zealand for rrms. The earlier we get treatment, as research and scientists say, the more positive impact on our journey with ms. Secondary progressive ms trials and research are also starting to give hope to many msers.
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