Dementia drug a ‘waste of money’

A drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease is a waste of money and
has little benefit on patients’ lives, according to a study
published by The Lancet last week.

“Doctors and health care 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 Roger
Gray, lead researcher and director of Birmingham University’s
clinical trials unit.

However, Eisai and Pfizer UK, manufacturers of donepezil, also
known as Aricept, insisted that evidence showed the drug helped
patients with dementia.

Gray agreed it was accepted that the drug helped patients do
slightly better in memory tests. But he wanted to know if “patients
got benefits that really matteredÉ in particular whether
donepezil delayed going into institutional care”.

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

Director of research Clive Ballard said the society “would be
concerned if the findings were to further restrict access to drug
treatments that we know can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Lon Schneider, a neurologist from the University of Southern
California, said claims that donepezil stabilised cognitive decline
or delayed nursing-home placement by between two and five years
could now be seen as “implausible”.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence said it would look at
the study in its review of Alzheimer’s drugs, which will appear
next May.

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