First funded treatment for motor neurone disease

Media release Medicines

The first funded pharmaceutical treatment for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the most common form of motor neurone disease, will become available from 1 October 2013.

PHARMAC has approved funding for riluzole (Rilutek) to treat ALS, a progressive, and ultimately fatal, neurological degeneration where patients lose control of their movements.

PHARMAC Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie says riluzole can help slow progression of the disease.

“Slowing progression is very important towards the end of a patient’s life,” says Dr Moodie. “Taking riluzole may delay the need for people to have surgical procedures to help them stay alive, such as a tracheostomy when they become unable to swallow.” 

Dr Moodie says evidence shows riluzole can extend patients’ lives and improve their quality of life.

“Until now patients with ALS and their treating doctors have had limited funded treatment options available, and no pharmaceuticals specifically for ALS,” says Dr Moodie. “So it’s pleasing to be able to offer a funded option that helps fill a gap in the available treatments.”

PHARMAC estimates that nearly 100 people will receive the funded treatment within three years, at a cost of approximately half a million dollars per year.