Access to drugs

Alzheimer's drug treatments have made a significant difference to quality of life for thousands of people with Alzheimer's disease and their carers.

However, people with Alzheimer's disease were denied full access to the drugs from 2007 when the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) restricted their availability on the NHS to people in the moderate stages.  NICE ruled that the drugs were clinically effective but not cost effective, despite costing around £2.80 per person, per day.

Alzheimer's Society supporters and volunteers campaigned tirelessly for this decision to be reversed, and from June 2011 new guidance came into force that increased access to the drugs available. Three anticholinesterase drugs (Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl) are now available from the NHS for people in the early to moderate stages. A fourth drug (Ebixa) is available for people in the late stages, and in the moderate stages if they cannot tolerate the anticholinesterase drugs. Primary Care Trusts now have a legal duty to provide funding for these drugs.

Please note that these drugs are only licensed for people with Alzheimer's disease, not other forms of dementia.

What does the NICE decision mean for people with dementia?

Alzheimer's Society has campaigned for many years for people to have access to these drugs - but what does this draft guidance mean for people with dementia?

The story so far

Find out more about the history of the campaign

How can you support the campaign?

Join our Campaigners' Network and help us change the lives of people with dementia

What is Alzheimer's Society position?

Alzheimer's Society thinks this is a momentous decision for people with Alzheimer's disease and their carers. These drugs can make a big difference to the quality of lives of many people.  Although they do not work for everybody, they can help to stabilise the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and provide real benefits to carers too.

This decision marks a major milestone in our long running campaign for full access to these drugs.

What next for the Access to drugs campaign?

However, the campaign does not stop here. We still need to ensure that everyone has access to the treatments they need.

We will continue to campaign for:

  • people with dementia to receive an early diagnosis, to ensure they have access to treatment and other support as early as possible
  • greater awareness of dementia and available treatments and support among clinicians.

These drugs are currently the only available treatments licensed for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, and although they can make a huge difference they do not work for everyone, nor are they licensed to treat people with other forms of dementia. They should form just one part of a package of care that is centred on an individual's need.

Therefore we also campaign for:

  • people with all forms of dementia to have access to the support and treatment that can help them live well with their condition
  • greater investment in dementia research that could lead to more and better treatments for people with dementia.