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Hundreds of thousands could gain access to Alzheimer’s treatments

Published 7 October 2010

Hundreds of thousands of people with Alzheimer’s disease who have been denied medical treatment could soon be given access to life-changing drugs on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled that the medications, which cost just £2.80 per person per day, are cost effective and should be available on prescription.


The draft decision is a victory for people with Alzheimer's disease and their carers who have campaigned with Alzheimer's Society and other organisations for full access to the drug treatments since they were controversially restricted in 2007.


Ruth Sutherland, Interim Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society says:

'This is a momentous day for thousands of people with Alzheimer's and their carers. These drugs can help people have a better quality of life at all stages of the condition. While they don't work for everyone, small but important benefits can enable many people to recognise their loved ones for longer, play with their grandchildren or make vital plans for the future. Alzheimer's Society welcomes the draft decision and will now be campaigning for more people to have access to the treatments from today.'


If the draft decision is upheld three drugs - Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl - would be available on the NHS for people in the early and moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease. These treatments have up to now been restricted to people in the moderate stages. A fourth drug, called Ebixa, would also be made available to people in the moderate to late stages.


Professor Clive Ballard, Alzheimer's Society's Director of Research and leading old aged psychiatrist says:

'If this guidance is issued, doctors will no longer have to watch people deteriorate without being able to treat them. Being able to prescribe in the best interest of their patient will also be a strong incentive for GPs to diagnose Alzheimer's disease earlier and for doctors to go to their doctor if they are worried about their memory. Early diagnosis and intervention means better choice and control in the support and care available.'


Ann Johnson, 57, who takes Reminyl to treat her Alzheimer's disease, says:

'Reminyl has made a huge difference to my life and I am absolutely delighted that now so many other people could benefit too.' 

'Without these drugs I would be a shadow of the person I am today. Before I was prescribed them I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn't find the right words. I had low self esteem and used to dread getting lost. It was terrifying. Now I'm able to live life to the full. You can't put a price on that, it's immeasurable.'


There are 465,000 people with Alzheimer's in the UK and 62,000 people develop the disease every year. In compiling its latest guidance, NICE used a different model to assess the cost-effectiveness of the drugs and concluded they can now be shown to offer value for money.


NICE is inviting people to comment on the draft decision by 28 October, with a second meeting of the Appraisal Committee taking place on 25 November.


-Ends-

For interviews with spokespeople and case studies: Alzheimer's Society Press Office: 020 7423 3595

Notes to Editors
  • The latest decision has been taken as part of a review cycle of Alzheimer's drug treatments by NICE
  • NICE had previously recommended drug treatments should not available on the NHS.After unprecedented levels of opposition NICE recommended Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon should be prescribed for people in the moderate stages and Ebixa be prohibited
  • Subsequent appeals including one by Alzheimer's Society resulted in minor changes but the decision was upheld by the High Court in August 2007
  • For more information on the background of Alzheimer's Society's campaigning work around NICE guidance on Alzheimer's drugs, visit alzheimers.org.uk/accesstodrugs
  • NICE is the health rationing body for England and Wales. Part of its remit is to provide guidance to the NHS on new and existing medicines and treatments
  • One in three people over 65 will die with dementia
  • Alzheimer's Society research shows that 750,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In just 15 years a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051
  • Alzheimer's Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and the millions of people who care for them
  • Alzheimer's Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Alzheimer's Society has a strict ethical policy on pharmaceutical company funding. For more information visit alzheimers.org.uk/pharmaceutical
  • Alzheimer's Society supports people to live well with dementia today and funds research to find a cure for tomorrow. We rely on voluntary donations to continue our vital work. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers.org.uk
  • Alzheimer's Society provides a National Dementia Helpline, the number is 0845 300 0336 or visit alzheimers.org.uk