NICE Alzheimer’s drug proposal could benefit thousands
The draft guidance also recommends use of a further drug, memantine, to treat severe Alzheimer’s and some patients in moderate stages.
NICE says it has moved to positively recommend the drugs for wider treatment following increasing clinical research evidence of their effectiveness.
Previously, donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl) and rivastigmine (Exelon) are only routinely available through the NHS for moderate stage Alzheimer’s. The new recommendation could see thousands in the early stages of the disease potentially benefit from the treatment. People taking the drugs typically experience improvements in thinking, memory and communication.
NICE is also recommending memantine for severe Alzheimer’s and some people with moderate stages. The treatment, which is not currently commonly prescribed through the NHS, has been found to benefit some people with their day to day symptoms.
The Alzheimer’s Research Trust has long been calling for fair access to drugs that can benefit people at all stages of the disease. ART patron Sir Terry Pratchett previously criticised NICE for refusing to sanction Aricept to people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. He said: “A drug called Aricept can slow the progress of the disease, and the good news is it costs just £2.50 a day. The bad news is there are 400,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers in the UK, so Aricept has been ruled out for NHS use in the mild stages of the disease everywhere except Scotland.”
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This welcome proposal gives all people living with Alzheimer’s the best possible chance of benefiting from the treatments we have available. These drugs hold the promise of relief from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s for thousands of people and, while not the cure we desperately need, they can still help.
“The Government’s national dementia strategy stresses the need for early diagnosis, so NICE’s proposal could provide swift and much-needed treatment for people with Alzheimer’s in its early stages.
“It’s an irony that clinical research of the kind that has helped realise the benefits of drugs like these remains sorely underfunded in the UK. If we are to produce treatments that can alter the course Alzheimer’s disease itself, rather than just temporary relief from symptoms, then research is our only answer.”