NHS creating post-code lottery for patients with dementia, says charity

    People with Alzheimer’s still face barriers to accessing
    anti-dementia drugs – despite their endorsement by the National
    Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), it is claimed.

    The Alzheimer’s Society says some NHS bodies are either ignoring
    the Nice guidance or limiting the number of patients given the
    medication.

    In evidence to a Nice review, the charity’s report says: “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.

    “This amounts to post-code prescribing by proxy. In some areas
    patients have been told that drugs cannot be prescribed until funds
    for a memory clinic have been found.”

    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
    finds that two-thirds had experience of at least one of the four
    drugs, and that nearly three-quarters of this group said the
    treatments worked.

    Medication is effective in 80 per cent of cases, there is no
    evidence of harm and side effects are minor, the charity
    argues.

    A spokesperson 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 and prescribe medication to avoid
    bottlenecks and delays.

    Ageism is also factor in the refusal of drug treatment, the report
    claims. A carer for an 80-year-old in Sutton, south London, was
    told that anyone over 70 was “too old” for treatment.

    People with dementia in residential and nursing care homes are the
    most likely to be refused medication, the report adds.

    A further 5 per cent of respondents had been refused medication
    because they lived alone and there was no-one to supervise
    administration of the drug.

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