Pharmac considering more options for people with inflammatory bowel disease

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga - Pharmac has initiated consultation today to fund ustekinumab (branded as Stelara) for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and to widen access to infliximab (branded as Remicade) for IBD-associated arthritis.

“Following the budget increase, we are working our way through our options for investment list,” says Pharmac’s chief executive Sarah Fitt. “Since 1 July 2022, we’ve funded 4 new treatments, widened access to 14 and are currently considering consultation feedback on 11 proposals. We are pleased to be using this opportunity to progress the funding of many more treatments.”

The consultation today is based on a bundle deal with pharmaceutical supplier Janssen. If approved by Pharmac, ustekinumab would be funded from 1 February 2023 for eligible people with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who have not responded to prior biologic treatments, or where the treatment was not tolerated.

“We know that IBD has a significant and ongoing impact on people who have it and their whānau,” says Ms Fitt. “In September we consulted on vedolizumab, another medicine to treat IBD. Our expert clinical advisors told us that funding both medicines would make a significant difference to the health need of people affected so we are pleased to be looking at funding this additional option. If ustekinumab is approved for funding, an estimated 500 people with IBD would benefit in the first year, increasing to up to 1500 people after a few years.

“As this provisional agreement has been reached with the supplier Janssen, the price of another medicine infliximab (branded as Remicade) has been reduced. We are also consulting on the widening of access to infliximab, another treatment for the IBD community, to treat inflammatory bowel disease-associated arthritis and would also be available from 1 February 2023.”

“We understand that New Zealanders have high expectations on having timely access to medicines, so we are pleased to progress these consultations. It’s important we listen to those who are affected by our decisions and that we are open about the treatments we are considering.” says Ms Fitt. 

The consultation has been sent to health professionals, patient groups and others who Pharmac thinks would be interested. It is available on the Pharmac website for anyone wanting to have their say.