People at all stages of Alzheimer’s will now be able to access drugs on the NHS that can slow the progression of the disease.
The development comes following final guidance published today (Tuesday, 18 January 2011) by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Alzheimer's Society services are holding celebrations around the country all week to mark the occasion.
The decision is a reversal of NICE's previous position - in place since 2007 - limiting access to only those in the moderate stages of the disease.
Andrew Chidgey, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer's Society, says,
'This is a victory for people with Alzheimer's and their carers, many of whom have been campaigning for this day for years. These drugs don't work for everyone, but for some people they can radically improve their quality of life. We now need more people to be diagnosed early and for them to receive the treatment, support and advice that they desperately need.'
There are currently 465,000 people living with Alzheimer's in the UK and a further 62,000 people are developing Alzheimer's each year. The drugs - Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl - will now be available on prescription for people in the early and moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease. These treatments have up to now been restricted to people in the moderate stages. A fourth drug, called Ebixa, will also be made available to people in the moderate to late stages.
Heather Roberts, 56, from Derby has Alzheimer's disease and has been heavily involved in the campaign since 2007. She says,
'It's absolutely fantastic that NICE has changed its guidelines on Alzheimer's drugs, but it's not before time. NICE should be ashamed of itself for restricting access to these essential drugs in the first place. Within six months of taking Aricept my memory had improved to how it had been two years previously. That is a measure of the difference it has made to me. I am still very independent - I've got my driving licence, regularly play tennis and enjoy going on holiday. Thank heavens NICE has finally seen sense.'