Pharmac-Funded MS Treatment Delayed Despite Approval

The article reports on the delayed rollout of Ocrelizumab, a life-altering treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) patients in New Zealand, due to hospital staffing and budget shortages, affecting dozens of patients who were approved for the treatment. The delay is attributed to shortages in neurology, infusion nursing, and hospital pharmacy staff, particularly in the South Island, where MS is more prevalent." This description focuses on the primary topic of the delayed Ocrelizumab treatment, the main entities involved (PPMS patients, hospitals, and healthcare staff), the context of New Zealand's healthcare system, and the significant consequences of the delay. The description also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content, such as the setting of hospitals in New Zealand and the impact on patients.

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Pharmac-Funded MS Treatment Delayed Despite Approval

Pharmac-Funded MS Treatment Delayed Despite Approval

New Zealand's Pharmac-funded Ocrelizumab treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) sufferers is being delayed due to hospital staffing and budget shortages, affecting dozens of patients, despite being approved for funding last October. Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) is the first and only treatment for PPMS, and was expected to help 85 sufferers within the first year and 200 people within five years of Pharmac agreeing to fund it.

Why this matters: The delay in accessing this life-altering treatment highlights the need for adequate funding and staffing in the healthcare system to ensure timely access to essential medicines. This issue has broader implications for the management of chronic diseases and the overall quality of life for patients in New Zealand.

However, dozens of patients are being turned away as hospitals struggle to deliver the treatment, particularly in the South Island where MS is more prevalent. Christchurch hospital has yet to start a single PPMS patient on the drug, despite a waiting list of over 30 eligible patients. "It's devastating for patients who were given hope only to have it dashed," said Neil Woodhams, president of Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand (MSNZ).

One patient affected is businessman Bruce Street, who was approved for Ocrevus treatment last year but told it was unavailable due to infusion staffing capacity issues. "I'd built my hopes up and I thought, what's that about? They say you can have it, but you can't have it," Street said. He will now have his first Ocrevus infusion at a private clinic in Auckland, at a personal cost of $5,000 plus airfares.

The staffing and budget shortages hampering the rollout are in neurology, infusion nursing, admin support, and hospital pharmacy areas. A business case presented by Canterbury Waitaha neurologist Deborah Mason last October warned of the need for three more staff to treat an estimated 35 extra PPMS patients. New Zealand has only a third of the neurologists per capita compared to Australia.

Health NZ Te Wahtu Ora's chief medical officer Nick Baker acknowledged the distress caused to affected patients. "We want to reassure these patients that we are working hard to address this situation in a timely manner so we can provide this service as soon as possible," he said. Ocrelizumab has already proved life-changing for a fortunate few PPMS patients who have accessed it, including MSNZ vice president Graham Walker, who has been cycling 10 kilometers a day and has had no new brain lesions since beginning treatment seven years ago.

The delay in rolling out this groundbreaking treatment comes as neurological conditions like stroke and dementia are set to overtake cancer and heart failure as the leading cause of death by 2040. For the dozens of PPMS sufferers approved for Ocrelizumab but unable to access it, the wait for this potentially life-altering therapy continues as hospitals grapple with delivering it amid staffing and funding constraints.

Key Takeaways

  • New Zealand's Pharmac-funded Ocrelizumab treatment for PPMS sufferers is delayed due to hospital staffing and budget shortages.
  • Dozens of patients are being turned away, particularly in the South Island where MS is more prevalent.
  • Ocrelizumab is the first and only treatment for PPMS, expected to help 85 sufferers in the first year and 200 in five years.
  • Staffing and budget shortages affect neurology, infusion nursing, admin support, and hospital pharmacy areas.
  • Health NZ Te Wahtu Ora is working to address the situation, but patients face a continued wait for this potentially life-altering therapy.