31 Jul 2012

Pharmac funds new asthma treatment for preschoolers

7:19 pm on 31 July 2012

Drug-buying agency Pharmac is to fund a new asthma treatment for preschoolers with recurrent wheezing that is not helped by other therapies.

It will be available from Wednesday, as will a new treatment for scabies.

Pharmac says Montelukast, which comes in pill form, will be available for children under five with recurrent wheezing, and for people of all ages with exercise-induced asthma as well as those undergoing aspirin desensitisation programmes.

Pharmac medical director Peter Moodie says many children suffer from wheezing, which is often caused by respiratory tract infections.

Dr Moodie says it can be frequent, and distressing for parents, and can require admission to hospital.

He says Montelukast is not designed to replace current standard therapy, which is to use inhalers for children with asthma or wheeze.

"This is in addition. It is a short course and for children who get recurrent wheezing despite the normal therapies."

Dr Moodie says those wanting the alternative treatment will need to show significant and severe recurrent wheezing.

Pharmac estimates up to 7500 children a year will be treated with Montelukast, and a further 2000 adults, at a cost of $2.3 million over five years.

Pill to treat scabies a boon

Also funded is an extra scabies treatment in pill form - Ivermectin - for 10,000 patients a year who struggle with the current topical cream treatment.

Dr Moodie says the pill will be a boon to resthomes, where the itchy skin infestation can easily spread.

"Being able to give them a tablet overcomes the problem of having to get people to use creams over their entire body."

Asthma treatment applauded

The Asthma Foundation says the asthma pill will be a valuable extra option for preschoolers with recurrent wheezing.

Medical director Bob Hancox says parents have wanted Montelukast funded for some time.

An Auckland specialist in respiratory issues and children's health says it's about time the new medication was funded.

Innes Asher says some parents have been paying about $100 a month for the medicine.