'Walk of shame' medication eligibility test for multiple sclerosis sufferers could be on the way out

Patients suffering from multiple sclerosis are celebrating that they may no longer have to attempt what's known as the "walk of shame".

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Once a year Ingrid Robinson was forced to walk unaided for 500 metres, or lose her medication. Source: 1 NEWS

The annual medical test to prove eligibility for medication is being reconsidered by Pharmac.

Ingrid Robinson suffers from MS, a disorder that attacks the central nervous system, making it difficult to walk.

She takes medication but once a year she is forced to do just that as part of a clinical assessment, walk unaided for 500 metres, or lose her medication.

“It's like your life depends on getting that, walking that 500 metres to get that drug, because you don't know what's going to happen if you don't have it anymore,” Robinson said.

That's because Pharmac only funds drugs, for those in the early to mid-stages of MS, when the medication is the most effective.

It has no cure and gets progressively worse over time - and so they stop spending, when it reaches a certain stage.

Pharmac's consulting on a policy change that would extend funding to more severe cases from march next year.

“It will mean that their symptoms will be better controlled on medications, they will have less attacks, and their disability will be slowed down and they will, their disability will occur later in life,” Debbie Mason, a neurologist at Christchurch Hospital, said.

It means that the walk will be lowered to a 100-metre walk with a cane for support.

Lobbyists would like more, but say it's a step, in the right direction.

“It shouldn’t just be on disability alone because one of the things that MS effects is your cognition and people can be immobile but still have very good cognition function and continue to work,” Multiple Sclerosis NZ president Neil Woodhams said.