Pharmac funds first treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac has confirmed it is widening access to ocrelizumab (branded as Ocrevus) as the first funded treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

“We’re pleased to have a treatment option for people living with primary progressive multiple sclerosis that will make a difference to their lives, and those around them,” Pharmac’s Director of Pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbon says. “Ocrelizumab slows the progression of the condition, providing a higher quality of life, compared to current care for those living with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.”

The National Manager of Multiple Sclerosis New Zealand, Amanda Rose says “we are thrilled with today’s announcement which will see hundreds of New Zealanders with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, and their families, be given hope that they can slow down the progression of their disease, maintaining their independence and quality of life for longer.”

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease affecting the central nervous system. Around 10%-15% of people with multiple sclerosis experience the primary progressive type of the condition. For this group the numerous sensory, cognitive, and physical symptoms progressively worsen over time, compared to those with the relapsing remitting condition where progression is intermittent.

“We would like to thank the people who provided feedback to consultation on the funding proposal, particularity those with lived experience of the condition and their wider community. It was heartening to hear how people believe this treatment will allow them to retain independence and live well for longer.”  Geraldine MacGibbon says.

In addition to widening access to ocrelizumab for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, Pharmac is also confirming today that it is widening access to emicizumab for the treatment of severe haemophilia A. These changes will start from 1 October 2023. 

Emicizumab and ocrelizumab are both supplied by Roche Products (New Zealand) Ltd. Roche’s General Manager, Alex Muelhaupt, says it's wonderful news that a wider group of New Zealanders can now access these treatments. “We want to acknowledge the work done by the multiple sclerosis and haemophilia communities over the years, leading to this agreement.”

MacGibbon says that this funding proposal shows the Pharmac model of negotiation and maximising the medicines budget in action. “Our team are determined to fund as many products as possible through our fixed budget that is provided to us by the government. We spend every cent we get on medicines, vaccines, and devices, and we will continue to work to get the best health outcomes for people living in New Zealand,” concludes MacGibbon. 

Learn more

Application Tracker: ocrelizumab (branded as Ocrevus)(external link)

  • Ocrelizumab is administered by an intravenous (IV) infusion. The first two doses are given two weeks apart, followed by maintenance dosing every 6 months
  • In July 2022 Pharmac widened access to eight different funded treatments for relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. The change meant that some people are now able to access funded treatment earlier, after only one clinical episode of multiple sclerosis.
  • Ocrelizumab – Ork-ree-liz-ew-mab