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26 October 2001 News Update


A strong call to pressure government to subsidise anti-Alzheimer's medication in New Zealand has come from a symposium on Alzheimer's disease in Christchurch this week.

Lack of access to anti-Alzheimer's medication was described as appalling by visiting speaker Dr Gerard Byrne, head of the psychiatry department at the University of Queensland.

Two anti-Alzheimer's medications are subsidised in Australia, with a third to be available from this month.

Dr Byrne said access to anti-Alzheimer's drugs in New Zealand has not been treated with the same equity given to non-curative drugs for other conditions such as cancer.

He says there are huge advantages associated with the drugs, which in some cases can delay the progression of the disease for up to three years.

Alzheimers New Zealand wrote to Pharmac earlier this year in support of cholinesterase inhibitors being subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Schedule. But according the organisation's national director Elizabeth Chesterman, Pharmac has not replied.

Medical specialists at the symposium spoke of being unable to communicate with Pharmac and a member of the expert advisory group for health of older people, Dr Margaret Guthrie, said the agency worked in isolation and did not consult with medical specialists involved.

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