Legal blow for Alzheimer's patients

Campaigners battling for Alzheimer's sufferers to have access to anti-dementia drugs on the NHS in the early stages of the disease have suffered a High Court blow.

Legal blow for Alzheimer's patients
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 "procedurally flawed".

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".

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."

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 cases.

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 their carers.

Press Association
Last Mod: 11 Ağustos 2007, 09:30
Add Comment