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Appeal victory for Alzheimer's drug manufacturers

The Appeal Court has ruled that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) should have released details of how it reached its decision of restricting access to certain medications for those with the late stage of Alzheimer's.

The judge ruled that procedural fairness required NICE to release a fully executable version of the cost-effectiveness model it used to produce guidance for the treatment of patients with Alzheimer's.

The ruling was called a "damning indictment" of NICE's decision-making process - yet it will not mean the drugs will now be more available.

In March 2005, NICE ruled four drug treatments licensed for Alzheimer's disease (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl and Ebixa) should no longer be funded by the NHS.

It acknowledged that the drugs were clinically effective, but stated that they were not cost effective.

Pfizer/Eisai, manufacturer of Aricept, led a challenge to this decision in the high court.

Neil Hunt, chief executive, Alzheimer's Society said: "Today's decision is a damming indictment of the fundamentally flawed process used by NICE to deny people with Alzheimer's disease access to drug treatments.

"Since 2005, the Alzheimer's Society has spearheaded a campaign to end the discrimination resulting from these flaws and we are delighted these concerns have finally been recognised.

"Time and quality of life has been snatched away from thousands of vulnerable people who learned they have this devastating disease this year.

"This decision must now be urgently revisited to ensure everyone with Alzheimer's disease is given access to these drug treatments on the NHS, which cost just £2.50 per person per day."

Alzheimer's Society

Should these drugs be made more available? Or is NICE's decision right? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Certainly we know that Alzheimer's affects not just the 'elderly' but early stages can appear in a person's fifties. Certainly, if a treatment is available we should make it available to all diagnosed individuals. Cost-effective determination of treatment is abhorant to me. If we accept 'cost-effective' medical availability for persons due to age or type of illness, where do we stop applying this process? Do we say all those who do not have a certain life expectancy or ability to 'contribute' to society should be 'written-off' and allowed to deteriorate. Is heart or stroke care only to one day available to certain persons based on the cost of a heart transplant weighed against the cost of keeping the person in an institutional setting?" - Jan-Michael, Canada via London, England