Every year, 8,700 more Pacific people need treatment to prevent gout in order to achieve equity

Pharmac released the Pacific Peoples Health – Gout Data Snapshot report today. The report shows that while the prevalence of gout among Pacific people continues to rise, access to gout preventative medications remains inequitable.

The latest information shows that Pacific people aged 20 and over are about three times more likely to live with gout than non-Maori and non-Pacific people.

“We found that Pacific people start receiving gout preventative medication about 13 years earlier than non-Maori and non-Pacific people,” says Pharmac’s chief medical officer, Dr Hughes. “And Pacific people are about three times more likely to receive gout medication than non-Maori and non-Pacific people.

“But that’s still not enough. An additional 8,700 Pacific people require gout preventative medication each year to achieve equity in access to medication.

Gout is a form of arthritis that sets in when high levels of uric acid build up in the blood and solidify as painful crystals in the joints. It is a lifelong condition that can reduce a person’s life expectancy and quality of life.

“For Pacific peoples, biological factors – such as kidney disease, genetic variants and certain medications – contribute to a higher prevalence of gout compared to non-Maori and non-Pacific peoples,” says Dr Hughes. “With access to preventative medicine, gout symptoms and the risk of complications can be effectively managed.”

Dr Apisalome ‘Api’ Talemaitoga, GP and President of the Pacific GP Network, understands the impact of gout on Pacific people from a first-hand perspective.

“There are many barriers that make it more difficult for Pacific people to access gout medication,” says Dr. Talemaitoga.

Arthritis New Zealand chief executive Phillip Kearney hopes the findings will challenge the stigma surrounding the causes of gout.

“From a consumer perspective, it’s critical to see community and health groups working together to counter the stigma and myths that surround gouty arthritis,” says Kearney.

“A successful example of this collaboration can be seen in our Pacific Community Gouty Arthritis Education Project in Porirua.

“This project brings together clinicians, pharmacists and community leaders to work with Pacific communities and their whanau to help them build their knowledge and understanding of gouty arthritis and how it can be successfully managed. The key to the success of this program is the collaboration and involvement of Pacific people at every stage, so it is truly a community initiative.

Mr. Kearney, Dr. Talemaitoga and Dr. Hughes agree that the realities, worldviews and aspirations of Pacific peoples for health and well-being must be at the heart of interventions and the development of solutions.

“This is the second report using a new and important monitoring framework to measure trends in inequities in access to medicines. It will be useful across the health and disability sector and in Pacific communities, including health practitioners, health workers, policy makers, researchers and groups with an interest in responding to health needs of Pacific peoples,” says Dr Hughes.

“We hope this will spark discussion and action on addressing health inequities for Pacific people, building health excellence in the Pacific, and ensuring the practice and culturally safe and competent decision-making.”

Dr Talemaitoga says: “While this information adds new insights to our understanding of access to medicines in New Zealand, we recognize that understanding and addressing inequities in access to medicines will require new approaches and initiatives.

In addition to reviewing its processes to improve access to funded medicines for Pacific people, Pharmac is working with health and disability sector organizations to support healthcare professionals. This includes partnering with Matui to provide equity-focused training and prescribing tools to primary care clinicians through He Ako Hiringa (akohiringa.co.nz(external link)).

Pacific Peoples Health – Gout Data Snapshot is the second report on inequities in access to gout medications in Pharmac’s Monitoring and Outcomes framework. It follows the release of Gout Information – Impact on Maori in December 2021.

Find the full report: Pacific People’s Health – Gout Data Snapshot

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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