NHS ignores its own expertise on prescribing for Alzheimer’s disease

People with Alzheimer’s disease still face barriers to
accessing to anti-dementia drugs, despite their endorsement by the
National Institute of Clinical Excellence, according to the
Alzheimer’s Society, writes Craig

NICE first advised NHS bodies to prescribe Aricept, Reminyl and
Exelon three years ago, while a fourth drug Ebixa is available only
on private prescription.

A new survey of 4,000 people with Alzheimer’s and their
carers found that two thirds had experience of at least one of the
four drugs, and that almost three quarters of this group reported
that the treatments worked.

But in its evidence to a NICE review, the Alzheimer’s Society
says that some NHS bodies are either ignoring the NICE guidance or
limiting the number of patients given medication.

“Requiring all patients being considered for drug treatment
to pass through a designated clinic has allowed trusts to limit and
control access to new treatments,” says the report.
“This amounts to postcode prescribing by proxy. In some areas
patients have been told that drugs cannot be prescribed until funds
for a memory clinic have been found.”

Julia Cream, head of public affairs for the Alzheimer’s
Society, said, “One branch felt unable to distribute our
questionnaire because local consultants were not prescribing
medication. It is distressing for people to know that there are
drugs that may help but they cannot access them.’

The report calls for GPs and other primary care professionals to be
allowed to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and prescribe
medication, to avoid bottlenecks and delays.  Medication is
effective in 80 per cent of cases, there is no evidence of harm and
side effects are minor, the Society argues.

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