NICE guidelines propose medications on prescription for people with Alzheimer’s

Thousands of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the South West who have been denied medical treatment could soon be given access to life-changing drugs on the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has ruled that the medications, which cost just £2.80 per person per day, are cost effective and should be available on prescription.

Debbie Donnison, South West Area Manager for Alzheimer’s Society, says,

“This is a momentous day for thousands of people with Alzheimer’s and their carers. These drugs can help people have a better quality of life at all stages of the condition. While they don’t work for everyone, small but important benefits can enable many people to recognise their loved ones for longer, play with their grandchildren or make vital plans for the future. Alzheimer’s Society welcomes the draft decision and will now be campaigning for more people to have access to the treatments from today.”

Aricept (donepezil), Reminyl (galantamine), and Exelon (rivastigmine)

Aricept (donepezil), Reminyl (galantamine), and Exelon (rivastigmine)

The medications concerned include:

  • Aricept (donepezil)
  • Reminyl (galantamine), and
  • Exelon (rivastigmine)

Each of these drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme which breaks down acetylcholine – hopefully boosting levels of the brain chemical, which has been linked to memory function in Alzheimer’s.

In addition NICE says the medication Exiba (memantine) should be prescribed to patients with more advanced Alzheimer’s.

The newly proposed guidelines reverses earlier guidelines that the drugs did not offer sufficient benefit to justify their cost. NICE says that the publication of further clinical studies into the drugs in the five years since they were last appraised show more clearly the benefits to patients with “mild” Alzheimer’s. NICE says it is confident that the extra cost of caring for these patients outweighs the cost of the drugs themselves.