24 Jul 2013

Alternative gout medication to be available

2:32 pm on 24 July 2013

People with gout will have access to an effective drug, largely unavailable until now, after a six-year struggle by genetic researchers, arthritis experts and others.

More than 100,000 people in New Zealand have gout, a painful disease caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood.

Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says gout patients largely rely on a first-line treatment called allopurinol, which is effective but doesn't work for everyone.

Benzbromarone is considered particularly effective for Maori and Pacific men with gout, because of a gene which is stronger in those groups, but which is directly targetted by the drug.

Benzbromarone, although still unregistered, is now listed on the pharmaceutical schedule and will now be easier for patients to get, when first-line treatments are ineffective or can't be tolerated.

Associate professor Tony Merriman of Otago University, a genetics expert, said benzbromarone addresses the problem of too much uric acid in a person's blood.

He said gout is a treatable metabolic disease that tends to go hand in hand with diabetes, kidney and heart disease and high cholesterol.

The listing follows a six-year campaign by researchers and others to get benzbromarone more widely available for those who can't tolerate or get no benefit from the other mainstream drugs.

The change was welcomed by the Maori Gout Action Group in Auckland, which said there are thousands of men with untreated gout.