A drug currently used by the NHS to treat Alzheimer's will be denied to nearly 100,000 patients a year after a ruling by a health watchdog, the Court of Appeal has been told.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled in 2004 to restrict access to Aricept - one of the acetyle cholinesterase inhibitor class of drugs - for patients in the later stages of the disease.
David Pannick QC, representing pharmaceutical company Eisai, told the court that the guidance by NICE will have "a very substantial effect upon the availability and the potential duration of treatment" with the drugs.
He said: "The evidence suggests that, when the guidance takes full effect (for no mild AD sufferer will have current treatment discontinued as a result of the guidance), annually 96,600 patients with mild AD will be refused treatment with AChEIs that would have been made available."
NICE ruled the drugs are not cost effective for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's - a decision upheld by the High Court last year.
But now Eisai is claiming that NICE did not follow a fair and transparent process in reaching its decision.
NiICE decided that the drugs, which cost about £2.50 a day, did not make enough of a difference to recommend them for all patients.