London: Alzheimer’s suffers in the UK are being denied drugs that can slow the progress of this terrible disease because the Government drug rationing body says that they are not cost effective at £2.50 a day per patient.
As a result, many patients and their families are left struggling to cope with the dreadful erosion of memory and everyday skills caused by the disease. The Alzheimer’s Society has now mounted a legal challenge to try to reverse the decision.
Around 750,000 Britons are affected by dementia – more than half of them with Alzheimer’s – at an estimated cost to the nation of £17billion a year. And as the ageing population grows the number suffering from the disease is forecast to grow to a million.
The charity The Alzheimer’s Society is mounting a legal challenge to the decision by the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the High Court. Two of the drug companies who make the drugs, Eisai and Pfizer are leading a separate legal action on the ban.
Britons with dementia already have less access to diagnosis and treatment that those in other EU countries and the Government has no remedy for the increase in sufferers of the disease. diagnostic services and treatment options than patients in other EU countries.
Three drugs, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl, which could slow the disease’s progress, are no longer available for patients with ‘mild’ Alzheimer’s in England and Wales although they are licensed in Scotland.
These drugs help boost low levels of a chemical within the brain which helps nerve cells to communicate, temporarily improving or stabilising symptoms in about half of patients who try them.
Only patients with ‘moderate’ symptoms are eligible for these medicines, while a new drug called Ebixa which improves severe behavioural problems can be used only as part of a clinical trial.
The scale of the problem is revealed in a Dementia UK report prepared by the London School of Economics and King’s College, London. It says the cost of £17billion each year includes NHS and social services, lost income and taxes from carers, and the estimated contribution from unpaid carers.
Delaying the onset of dementia by five years would halve the number of related deaths, saving nearly 30,000 lives annually.