Anger over Alzheimer's drugs ruling

The revised guidance on drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease has been greeted with anger by Alzheimer's charities.

Draft guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine should only be considered for patients with "moderate" symptoms of the disease.

A fourth drug, memantine, which is used for treatment in the later stages of Alzheimer's, will also not be funded for new patients, because NICE ruled that there was "insufficient evidence" of its clinical benefit.

NICE's previous guidance on the drugs provoked controversy last March, because it recommended that the NHS should fund none of the drugs because they were not cost-effective.

Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said: "By going the extra mile and asking the drug companies to delve deeper into their clinical trial data, we have been able to identify the right way to use these medicines.

"People with Alzheimer's will now receive these drugs when they can help them most."

However, the Action on Alzheimer's Drugs alliance, which represents over thirty charitable and professional organisations, said that the guidance still placed "severe restrictions" on access to drugs. Neil Hunt, a representative for the alliance, said: "We are relived that NICE has withdrawn its plan to place a blanket ban on the only drug treatments for people with Alzheimer's disease. However, the new draft guidance that NICE has produced still raises serious ethical and practical concerns.

"It recommends that people be denied a drug treatment that may help them until they have declined sufficiently for that treatment to represent good value for money.

"People with dementia and their carers value the benefits that the drug treatments bring in the early stage of the disease. For what other condition would you wait until people decline so much that they can no longer look after themselves before giving them treatment?"

Dr David Wilkinson, a psychiatrist specialising in old age and member of the alliance, said that if the guidance was approved, professionals would be placed in the "impossible situation of withholding beneficial treatments from people with dementia because they are not ill enough". He said: "Drug treatments that work must be available to those who need them and clinicians should be able to use their professional judgement to decide when to prescribe them."

A consultation will take place on the guidance over the next three weeks. The final guidance is expected to be issued to the NHS in July.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

01 March 2005
Alzheimer's drugs could be withdrawn
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended the withdrawal of three drugs frequently used to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
29 May 2015
23 Charged With Drug Offences Following Raids
More than 20 people have been charged with drug offences following a number of raids carried out in London, Gravesend, Dover and Deal. A total of 23 people were arrested during twenty raids carried out over three days. The suspects, ranging in age from 17 to 52, have all been charged in connection with the supply of class A drugs.
10 August 2007
Court Orders Review Of Alzheimer's Guidelines
A high court judge has ordered a review of guidelines on the way it decides which Alzheimer's patients are given three drugs to treat the brain-destroying disease.
03 November 2005
Fast-track guidance for life-saving drugs
Patients should be able to receive life-saving drugs more quickly under a new scheme announced by the government. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced proposals to allow the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to produce faster guidance on life-saving drugs.
11 October 2006
Dementia drug appeal rejected
An appeal by Alzheimer's disease groups to win greater access to drugs has been rejected by the NHS watchdog responsible for recommending drugs use. The National institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced that the appeals lodged by stakeholders against draft guidance on the use of drugs to treat Alzheimer�s Disease have not been upheld.