NICE reversal on Alzheimer’s Drugs

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Alzheimer’s disease is a serious condition that involves progressive deterioration of the brain leading to complete dementia. It is extremely distressing not only for the sufferer but also for their family and friends who have to watch their loved one deteriorate to an extent where they may no longer even recognise them.

Up until now, people with mild or early stage Alzheimer’s have been denied drugs that could delay the progression of the disease.

Now following some high profile campaigns and lobbying from pressure groups, who maintained it was unethical to allow sufferers to wait until they got much worse before offering drugs that could help, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has given the go ahead for the drugs to be used in patients with mild forms of Alzheimer’s.

The three drugs involved are and Aricept (Donepezil), Reminyl (Galantamine) and Excelon (Rivastigmine), which were previously only available to people with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s. NICE also recommended the use of memantine for severe disease and for some patients with moderate disease.

According to Sir Andrew Dillon, who is the Chief Executive of NICE, the new guidelines have come about as a result of new evidence on the cost effectiveness of drug treatment and the cost of Alzheimer’s to the National Health Service.

“We are pleased to now be able to recommend these three drugs for both mild and moderate Alzheimer’s disease and another for moderate or severe Alzheimer’s, extending recommendations made in 2007

“Since 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs and, in the case of memantine, have reduced the uncertainty about its clinical effectiveness. 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” he said.

Andrew Chidgey, head of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Society, told the Press Association that this was a victory for people with Alzheimer’s and their carers, many of whom have been campaigning for this for years.

“These drugs don’t work for everyone” he said, “but for some people they can radically improve their quality of life. We now need more people to be diagnosed early and for them to receive the treatment, support and advice that they desperately need.”

The final guidance from NICE is expected to be published in March.

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