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

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

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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