Recovering stroke patients who suffer from lower limb spasticity will now have greater access to important Botox therapy after it was added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Associate Professor Anupam Gupta from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research, was a key figure in lobbying for the treatment (called Botulinum Toxin) to be listed on the Scheme to aid recovery for patients suffering from spasticity after stroke.
The Hospital Research Foundation is supporting A/Prof Gupta’s research into this area, with the PBS listing expected to benefit around 2800 patients across Australia.
“Without the PBS subsidy, patients would pay more than $5400 per year for this treatment,” A/Prof Gupta said.
“Botulinum Toxin is safe and tolerated well by the patients.”
Spasticity is a condition brought on by a stroke, where certain muscles are continuously contracted, causing stiffness or tightness of the muscles. This can interfere with normal movement, leaving patients unable to complete basic tasks.
Prior to the listing, Botox was only subsidised for patients with stroke with upper limb spasticity and for selected patients with cerebral palsy.
“If the function and balance for those who’ve suffered a stroke and have been told they can no longer drive or walk unassisted can be helped with Botox injections, then it will instantly lift their spirits knowing their condition can be improved.”
With THRF’s support, Dr Gupta is recruiting 80 stroke patients who are living with lower limb spasticity to trial the Botox. They receive Botox injections approximately every six months along with physiotherapy, to help with their movement and improve their quality of life.
Regaining independence thanks to Botox
Someone who knows all too well about this devastating condition is Elizabeth (Mandy) Bosson. Her life turned upside down after suffering a major stroke in September 2012 at just 51 years old. What began as a horrendous headache during a work meeting left Mandy paralysed down one side within half an hour.
“I suffered a haemorrhage and ended up in intensive care, followed by lengthy rehab, undergoing significant physio, speech pathology and occupational therapy. The most frustrating thing was being unable to drive. I was house bound,” Mandy said.
Mandy’s life changed instantly, the stroke leaving her with severe physical side effects, from having a successful career and the freedom to live, she was left unable to talk and was forced to give up her job at The City of Adelaide.
Refusing to accept her prognosis, Mandy pushed herself, undergoing intensive rehab and learning how to speak again. Mandy found hope when Dr Gupta became her specialist and began injecting Botox in her leg to assist with her movement.
“I feel the effects begin to kick in after about a week, and with the help of physiotherapy, it makes such a difference to my mobility. Without the Botox injections I am at a higher risk of falling and my movement is very limited. I can now drive again and I have my independence back,” Mandy said.
“I couldn’t have hoped to achieve anything like that without the Botox injections.”