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Alzheimer's drugs "help patients"

Scientists have released new evidence showing that Alzheimer's drugs currently being denied to patients have beneficial effects on the brain.

The Government's independent watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), caused huge controversy last year by ruling that donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine should only be used to treat moderate stages of the disease.

It also ruled that memantine should be used only in clinical studies for people with moderately severe to severe Alzheimer's.

The watchdog said the drugs "do not make enough of a difference for us to recommend their use for treating all stages of Alzheimer's disease".

But new research in the journal Neurology appears to show that the drugs have a beneficial effect on the brain.

Patients prescribed donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine were found to have 70% fewer of the proteins linked to brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

The Alzheimer's Society said it is the first study into the effects of the cholinesterase inhibitors on the human brain, but more research is needed.

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