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Friday 25th May 2018

Drugs u-turn for Alzheimer's patients

7th October 2010

A major u-turn by the government’s health watchdog could see hundreds of thousands more patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease received drug treatments.


The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has acknowledged evidence that supports the use of drugs for mild symptoms of the condition.

Current prescribing rules are stopping doctors giving patients donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine in such early cases.

The change is the latest stage in a long battle over the drugs which in 2005 NICE said no-one should receive on the NHS before amending the regulations a year later to allow patients with moderate symptoms to receive them.

The new NICE review now proposes giving the drugs to patients with mild symptoms.

NICE Chief Executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Clinical trials have continued to show the positive effect of these drugs.

"Our increased confidence in the benefits and costs associated with the use of the three drugs for treating mild and moderate stages of the disease has enabled us to make positive recommendation for their use in mild disease."

Ruth Sutherland, the interim chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said the ruling was a "momentous day", with approximately half of the 62,000 people who develop the disease every year likely to benefit from the drugs, but said it was "critical that this draft decision becomes a reality".

The society's Director of Research, Professor Clive Ballard, said: "If this guidance is issued, doctors will no longer have to watch people deteriorate without being able to treat them."


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