Campaign leads to U-turn on Alzheimer drugs

A vociferous campaign by patients, carers and pharmaceutical firms has led to the NHS’s drugs advisory body making a U-turn on whether certain Alzheimer drugs should be prescribed.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced today that it is changing its views on three drugs – donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine – for Alzheimer’s.

NICE first ruled, in 2001, that the three drugs should be used throughout the NHS.

Then it revisited its view and issued draft guidance that it considered the drugs were not effective enough, considering their cost.

After the drug manufacturers appealed they were invited by NICE to submit evidence from their trials on which groups of patients were likely to benefit most.

And today, NICE says that it has been convinced that patients with moderate Alzheimer’s can benefit, but not those in the early or late stages of the disease.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “We needed to make the right decision, based on all the relevant evidence.

“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.”

The new draft guidance on the treatment for dementia now goes out to consultation, and will be formally issued later in the year.

Nice remains unconvinced that a fourth drug, memantine, aimed at the later stages of Alzheimer’s, will sufficiently help patients.

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