Alzheimers...this is how the press association is reporting the story. What's YOUR experience?
Campaigners battling for Alzheimer's sufferers to have access to anti-dementia
drugs on the NHS in the early stages of the disease suffered a High Court blow
Although a judge ordered the Government's medicines watchdog to amend
"discriminatory" guidance on drug treatment for Alzheimer's, the ruling did
not pave the way for funding for all patients with "mild" symptoms.
Drugs companies, supported by the Alzheimer's Society, won a partial victory in
the first ever challenge of its kind to a decision by the National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which is responsible for providing
national guidance on treatments available on the NHS.
Mrs Justice Dobbs, sitting in London, ruled that Nice should rewrite its
guidance on how the severity of the disease is assessed.
Eisai, the Japanese company which makes Aricept, one of the drugs at the centre
of the case, and Pfizer, which distributes it in Britain, had accused Nice of
acting "irrationally and unlawfully" and argued that its decision was
But the judge allowed their challenge on only one out of six grounds - that the
test to assess Alzheimer's is discriminatory to people with learning
difficulties or those who speak English as a second language.
Campaigners say that amended guidance will greatly improve the position of
"thousands of patients who would otherwise have been denied equal and fair
access to treatment because they could not pass a single, rigid test of how far
their disease had progressed".
Mrs Justice Dobbs announced: "In the light of the court's finding that the
guidance is discriminatory, the court directs Nice to amend the guidance so as
to ensure its compliance with Nice's duties and obligations under
Alzheimer's Society chief executive Neil Hunt said patients would now have
"much fairer access to Alzheimer's drug treatments".
However, he added: "But the ruling still falls short of ensuring that everyone
with Alzheimer's disease can have access to the drugs.
"There will still be some mild stage patients who are refused because Nice
considers that these drugs are too expensive."
Last year Nice, backed by an appeal panel, decided that three acetyl
cholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) - Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon - should no
longer be made available on the NHS in the early stages of Alzheimer's. It
recommended use of the drugs for "moderate" Alzheimer's, but not for mild
It decided that the drugs, which cost about #2.50 per person a day, were not
cost effective in relation to the benefits they offered to such sufferers and
The watchdog, which described the drugs as having "only a small clinical
effect", said its decision-making processes were "open, transparent and
After today's judgment Nice chief executive Andrew Dillon said: "This ruling
strengthens Nice by endorsing our approach to evaluating drugs.
"Our guidance stands and the drugs continue to be recommended only for people
with moderate Alzheimer's disease, but the court has asked us to clarify our
guidance when it is used for certain groups.
"It was always our intention that people with learning disabilities or people
whose first language is not English should have equal access to the drugs in the
moderate stage of Alzheimer's disease.
"We will reissue our guidance to the NHS to make this crystal clear."
He said: "Alzheimer's disease is a devastating illness, but the evidence
indicates that these drugs are simply not effective for some patients.
"That is why we also issued advice last year on the broader support that
should be provided for people with Alzheimer's disease and those who care for
them, creating core standards for the NHS and care homes that will make a real
difference for patients and their families."
Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of Nice, said: "I do not regard this
as win or lose, but in five out of six points the judge has concluded that our
procedures are fair and rational and that is important for us, having been
tested in court."