Alzheimer's drug access 'a lottery'

Cholinesterase inhibitors - Alzheimer's

05.06.2009

A postcode lottery for key Alzheimer's drugs means there is as much as a 70% variation in access between regions in England, data suggests.

In 2007, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) ruled that cholinesterase inhibitors should only be approved for use on the NHS in people with moderately severe Alzheimer's disease.

Figures from IMS Health show use of the drugs - including donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine - is lowest in the South West and West Midlands, and highest in the North West and South Central regions.

Despite the overall use of the drugs increasing by 33% over the last three years in the UK, the country is still well behind other nations in Europe, according to figures reported in GP newspaper.

Germany's use of the drugs is 18% above that in the UK, while Sweden's is (44%), Austria's (81%) and Spain's (148%).

The research also suggests one in five UK prescriptions for dementia drugs are still for anti-psychotic treatments - known as "chemical cosh" and designed to cut aggression and reduce psychotic symptoms such as delusions.

However, the Alzheimer's Society said these figures are limited to prescriptions picked up from community pharmacies, which probably does not cover care homes.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Yogi Amin from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "Any refusal to fund or provide the drug treatment recommended by a patient's treating clinician could be considered unfair and challenged with legal support."