Alzheimer’s Drug Receives Funding For The First Time

Pharmac, a drug purchasing agency says a reduction in price has made it possible for it to fund a medicine specifically targeting Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, for the first time.

The exact date the funding starts has not been established, yet, however, it could be some time after 1st July as Pharmac plans to fund the Donepezil Rex brand of Donepezil after it has been registered for use in New Zealand by safety regulator Medsafe.

Pharmac says there is evidence Donepezil, a part of the acetylchlorinesterase inhibitor group of medicines, specifically used to treat Alzheimer's disease and related types of dementia, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s in some patients. None of these treatments are currently funded in New Zealand.

According to Pharmac, the $32 million price tag would have crowded out funding for other medicines, however, competitive tendering has helped achieve a 95% reduction in price. This means Donepizil will become available without restriction to an estimated 15,000 people i. e. it can be prescribed and funded for anyone with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, after three years, at a cost of approximately $680,000 per year.

However, Pharmac has declined funding for memantine (Ebixa), which is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, despite belonging to a different class of medicines, though clinical advisory committees believe it has poor evidence of effectiveness, including not being cost-effective.