Changes to how new drugs are assessed could help dementia treatments get to people sooner

06 November 2020

Alzheimer’s Research UK says proposed changes to the way new treatments are assessed could give the dementia drugs of the future ‘a better chance of getting to the people who need them’.

NICE has today (6 November) launched a public consultation that sets out the case for change to the methods it uses to develop guidance on medicines, medical devices and diagnostics.

Through its Technology Appraisal programme, NICE looks at the clinical benefit and value for money offered by new medicines. This helps ensure patients in England have fair access to clinically and cost-effective treatments through the NHS.

The potential changes are part of the largest review ever carried out into the methods and processes NICE uses to produce its guidance on health technologies.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, has been involved in the review process as co-chairs of the Charities Medicines Access Coalition (CMAC).

Samantha Benham-Hermetz, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“People living with dementia have been waiting nearly two decades for new treatments. But the sad reality is, if one was licensed today, the drug would face an uphill struggle to become available on the NHS. This is largely because the cost of a new dementia treatment would almost certainly be deemed to outweigh the effectiveness of the drug, based on the current assessment criteria.

“We welcome the changes proposed by NICE, as they would give a new dementia drug a better chance of getting to the people who need it. These proposals place a much greater emphasis on the severity of the condition, which has been missing in the past, but will be crucial when assessing a dementia drug. We know this condition can have a devastating effect on people’s lives and the progression of the condition can take place over decades.

“The proposals also welcome more innovative approaches to new medicines, and flexibility in accepting uncertainty in specific situations. This would be a big step forward compared to the current methods. However, we are disappointed that greater prominence has not been given to carer’s quality of life. Dementia has huge implications not just for the person affected but also their loved ones who care for them. This is a missed opportunity.

“As part of the Charities Medicines Access Coalition, Alzheimer’s Research UK has been pleased to work with NICE on reviewing the current methods. We have put forward recommendations which we believe will future proof the way new treatments are assessed and will continue to monitor how changes might affect future access. With new dementia treatments within our sights, we hope these measures are put into place effectively and quickly, so people with dementia have the best chance of getting the medicines they need.”