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Change in Alzheimer's drug access

People with mild Alzheimer's who have previously been denied access to drugs could now get them, it has been announced.

Hundreds of thousands of people were denied access to the drugs when the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) ruled key medicines would only be available to those in moderate stages of the disease in 2006 and 2007.

It was "cruel and unethical" to force patients with early-stage Alzheimer's to wait until their condition deteriorated before they could gain access to the drugs, according to campaigners.

Now, new draft guidance from NICE says the medicines should be available to those with mild disease and could potentially benefit thousands of people with Alzheimer's.

Aricept (donepezil), Reminyl (galantamine) and Exelon (rivastigmine) could be made available to people with mild as well as moderate disease under the guidance, which is subject to appeal.

It also recommends the use of Ebixa (memantine) for severe disease and for some patients with moderate disease. Previously, it was only on offer to patients as part of a clinical trial.

The drugs, which cost around £2.80 a day, do not offer a cure for Alzheimer's disease, but they have been shown to improve everyday functioning.

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