Alzheimer’s drug is of little use in real life, study finds

Drugs for Alzheimer’s disease are a waste of money and
have little benefit on patients’ lives, according to a study
published by The Lancet, writes Haroon

“Doctors and healthcare-funders need to question whether it
would be better to invest in more doctors and nurses and better
social support rather than … prescribing these expensive
drugs,” said lead researcher Roger Gray, director of
Birmingham University’s clinical trials unit.

Eisai and Pfizer UK, manufacturers of donepezil also known as
Aricept, said evidence showed the drugs helped patients with

Gray said it was accepted that the drugs, approved for the NHS by
the National Institute of Clinical Excellence in 2001, helped
patients do a little better in memory tests. But he wanted to know
if “patients got benefits that really mattered … in
particular whether donepezil delayed going into institutional

The Alzheimer’s Society, which has received some funding from
the drug industry, said they were disappointed with the
study’s findings.

The Society’s director of research Professor Clive Ballard
said, “We would be concerned if the findings were to further
restrict access to drug treatments that we know can delay the
symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”

In a commentary with the study, Lon Schneider from the University
of Southern California, USA, said, “Claims that donepezil
stabilises cognitive decline, or delays nursing-home placement by
2–5 years now can be seen as implausible in the light of [the

NICE said it would look at the study in its review of
Alzheimer’s drugs, which will be published in May 2005.
Donepezil costs £1000 per patient per year and is taken by
39,000 people in the UK.

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