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Victory claim over drug court fight

A charity claims to have recorded a victory in a legal fight for "mild" sufferers of Alzheimer's disease to get access to antidementia drugs on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided some drugs are not cost effective in relation to the benefits they offer to early-stage sufferers.

Eisai, the Japanese company which makes one of the drugs, Aricept, and Pfizer, which distributes it in Britain, launched the High Court action, accusing NICE of acting "unlawfully, unfairly and irrationally".

Now the Alzheimer's Society, which is backing the application for a judicial review, said NICE has made a "dramatic concession" over the treatments.

Nigel Giffin, a QC for NICE, told the court doctors do have discretion, in certain circumstances, to prescribe the drugs to patients with mild symptoms.

He said doctors "must accept the general approach of the guidance", but could determine, "because there are particular circumstances of the individual patient", that it was "nevertheless clinically appropriate to prescribe the drug".

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Finally an independent and public body has listened to what we believe are the fundamental flaws in NICE's decision to severely restrict access to Alzheimer's drugs.

"We have full confidence in the judicial review process and await Mrs Justice Dobbs's decision."

But NICE said it has not made a "concession" on Alzheimer's drugs, and that Mr Giffin was simply explaining how the guidance works.


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