Subsidy to relieve anxiety
Lisa Reid cannot stand the sight of needles but has to overcome her fear every week.
The 38-year-old was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) nine years ago and has endured weekly injections for the past six years to keep her condition manageable.
Government drug-buying agency Pharmac is now subsidising MS patients taking the Avonex Pen - a treatment designed to reduce injection-related pain and anxiety.
The product conceals the needle within the device, inserts it automatically and withdraws it without the patients having to see the needle.
About 2500 people in New Zealand have MS and it is believed about half them suffer from injection anxiety.
Over the past nine years, Reid has experienced temporary blindness in one eye and temporary loss of feeling in her torso and face, which returned only after taking high-dose steroids.
"It's so completely unpredictable, which is probably the most scary thing about it. You never know where it's going to hit next."
Her "relapses" had happened less often since she began taking her current medication but her needle phobia made taking the drug a struggle every week.
"When I first found out I have MS I looked at all the treatment options. Every single one of them involved self-injection. I was so upset, I just lost it," she said.
"There's times that I'll sit there [holding the needle] and I'll think about it for ages. It's not the pain, it's just having to put it in my body."
Her medication, which cost about $300 a week, was funded by Pharmac, but the new product would help ease her needle phobia, she said.
A Pharmac spokesman said 553 New Zealanders with MS received Pharmac-funded medications, and those having Avonex treatments would be eligible for the new product.