More treatments funded for respiratory disease

Media release Medicines

PHARMAC is funding six new medicines  that will improve treatment options for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

COPD is a respiratory condition that is one of the leading causes of death in New Zealand.

Agreements with two suppliers will see six new products funded:

  • tiotropium bromide solution for inhalation (Spiriva Respimat)
  • umeclidinium powder for inhalation (Incruse Ellipta)
  • tiotropium bromide with olodaterol solution for inhalation  (Spiolto Respimat)
  • umeclidinium with vilanterol powder for inhalation (Anoro Ellipta)
  • glycopyrronium with indacaterol powder for inhalation (Ultibro Breezhaler)
  • fluticasone furoate with vilanterol powder for inhalation (Breo Ellipta).

In addition, PHARMAC is freeing up prescribing rules for some currently-funded COPD products so they will be available to more people – including allowing prescribing by qualified nurse practitioners.

Director of Operations Sarah Fitt says the new products and changes to prescribing rules increase treatment options for people with COPD.

“PHARMAC currently funds four products specifically for COPD. The new agreements grow this number significantly, giving choice to patients and clinicians treating them,” says Sarah Fitt. “The agreements also enable PHARMAC to list some of the products without restriction which will mean that some people currently unable to access funded treatment will be able to do so.”

“As a result we’re expecting the number of people receiving funded treatment for COPD to more than double over the next five years.”

Currently about 22,000 New Zealanders receive funded treatment for COPD.

Depending on uptake rates of the new products, PHARMAC estimates that  savings could be in the region of $10 million over five years. This is because price concessions that PHARMAC has obtained on existing products, combined with the new products listed, will generate savings in the long term.

The decision has been welcomed by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand.

Teresa Demetriou, National Education Services Manager says: “It's great news that PHARMAC is funding new medications to treat this debilitating disease. These medications will widen the treatment options available to doctors. People with COPD will now have other treatments available to relieve their symptoms, making day-to-day living a little easier. COPD is often undiagnosed, and for this reason at least 200,000 (or 15%) of the adult population may be affected”

The new products will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Schedule from 1 March 2016.