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Alzheimer's drug verdict "unlawful"

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is "irrationally and unlawfully" failing to continue funding some antidementia drugs on the NHS, a court has heard.

Eisai, the Japanese company which makes the Alzheimer's drug Aricept, and Pfizer, which distributes it in Britain, are asking the High Court to intervene and order the body to reconsider.

David Pannick QC, appearing for Eisai, said Alzheimer's is an "appalling" disease which ruins lives, yet there are drugs which can "buy time and quality of life" for sufferers with mild symptoms.

The court bid comes after NICE decided last year that those drugs - Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon - should no longer be available on the NHS in the early stages.

NICE decided that since they cost £2.50 a day, they are too expensive when weighed against the benefit to patients.

But Mr Pannick argues the decision is both procedurally flawed and irrational.

He 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 legal action is being backed by the Alzheimer's Society, which represents 630,000 people with the disease and their carers throughout England and Wales.

The hearing continues.

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