Modern migraine medications added to Pharmac’s Options for Investment list

Funding of galcanezumab (Emgality), erenumab (Aimovig) and atogepant (Qulipta) progressed one step closer this week, with Pharmac adding these migraine-specific medications to its Options for Investment list for the prevention of both episodic and chronic migraine. All three of these medications target calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which is a neuropeptide involved in triggering and sustaining migraine attacks.

Our advocacy efforts for funding of these new migraine medications began in November 2022, when we submitted an application to Pharmac to fund Emgality and launched our advocacy campaign. Since then, we’ve corresponded and met with Pharmac, provided critical feedback on the minutes of Pharmac’s Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) meetings where erenumab was discussed and presented at Pharmac’s Neurological Advisory Committee meeting in September 2023. This specialist committee reviewed the evidence for three anti-CGRP medications: the monoclonal antibodies galcanezumab and erenumab and the gepant atogepant.

The committee recommended these medications be funded with a high priority in December 2023. Pharmac considered this recommendation using its Factors for Consideration framework and internal economic assessments and have allocated it to its highest priority list.

While this is a great milestone, and one the migraine community can be proud of, it doesn’t mean that these will be funded, at least anytime soon. The Options for Investment list is Pharmac’s list of medications it would fund, if it had the budget to do so. Unfortunately, Pharmac’s budget is woefully inadequate and David Seymour’s announcement of additional Pharmac funding at the Medicine Access Summit in April 2024 won’t be enough to cover any new medicines, that is, the ones on Pharmac’s Options for Investment list, but will only keep existing medicines on the books.

We will continue to advocate, like many other organisations and individuals are doing, to put pressure on the government to increase Pharmac’s budget. Without appropriate investment into new medications, New Zealand will continue to slip further behind other OECD countries in relation to funding of and access to modern medicines.

But for today, we’re celebrating this achievement. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get these medications this far, and we couldn’t have done it without support from our Clinical Advisory Group and our migraine community group. Thank you to everyone who completed our Migraine in Aotearoa New Zealand (MiANZ) 2022 survey (the data we have from this has been invaluable to support our funding application), shared personal stories and encouraged and supported us in other ways.