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Alzheimer's drug judicial review

25th June 2007

NICE's decision not to allow Alzheimer's drugs to patients with mild forms of the illness is the subject of a judicial review.

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Eisai, the drugs' manufacturer, presented the case to the High Court, backed up by pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Alzheimer's Society. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had ruled that NHS use of donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine would be too expensive.

David Pannick QC, representing Eisai, said: "We are asking the court to conclude that NICE and its appeal panel failed properly to assess the issues and so the matter must go back for reconsideration."

The original guidance, published in 2001, made the recommendation that the treatment should be used. Later guidance published in November 2006 said the drugs could only be given to people who had "moderate-stage disease."

The drugs, costing around £2.50 a day, were deemed to be "poor value for money."

Carers and campaigners have fiercely attacked the idea that Alzheimer's sufferers must get progressively worse before they are deemed suitable for treatment. They say that NICE have made an incorrect analysis of costs and the potential benefits of the treatment.

The court was read a written statement by Lillian Turner, whose husband Keith has the disease. She called NICE's defence "abhorrent and disgusting."

Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE, said: "Non-drug interventions have an important part to play and the evidence indicates that drugs are simply not effective for some patients."

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