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
    Kenny.

    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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