Alzheimer’s drugs restrictions to be lifted

Alzheimer’s campaigners claimed victory today after the NHS drugs watchdog proposed to overturn restrictions on treatments for the condition.

The proposal from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence promises improved quality of life for many people in the early stages of the disease, the Alzheimer’s Society said.

If accepted, the draft guidance marks the end of a protracted battle over Nice’s restriction of NHS funding for Alzheimer’s drugs.

“This is a victory for people with Alzheimer’s and their carers, many of whom have been campaigning for this day for years, said Andrew Chidgey, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society. “These drugs don’t work for everyone, but for some people they can radically improve their quality of life.”

Current Nice guidance limits NHS prescription of three drugs – Aricept (manufactured by Eisai/Pfizer), Exelon (Novartis Pharmaceuticals) and Reminyl (Shire Pharmaceuticals) – to people with moderate stage Alzheimer’s, on the basis that it is not cost-effective for people with mild Alzheimer’s.

A fourth drug, Ebiza (Merx), is not recommended for use on the NHS for its target group, people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.

All those decisions would be reversed by today’s proposed guidance.

“Since 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs and, in the case of memantine (Ebiza), have reduced the uncertainty about its clinical effectiveness,” said Nice chief executive Andrew Dillon.

“In addition, we now have more information about the costs of living with and treating this very distressing disease, as it progresses through its mild, moderate and severe stages.”

A decision is due on the guidance in March.

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