NICE draft guidance extends recommendations on Alzheimer's drugs

NICE is proposing to update its guidance on the use of four drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer´s disease. The draft guidance extends NICE's recommendation for the use of three of the drugs - Donepezil (Aricept, Eisai/Pfizer), galantamine (Reminyl, Shire) and rivastigmine (Exelon, Novartis) - to include mild, as well as moderate disease. It also recommends the use of memantine (Ebixa, Lundbeck) for severe disease and for some patients with moderate disease.

Chief Executive, Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Since we published our guidance in September 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs and, in the case of memantine, have reduced the uncertainty about its clinical effectiveness. In addition, we now have more information about the costs of living with and treating this very distressing disease, as it progresses through its mild, moderate and severe stages.

He continued: "Our increased confidence in the benefits and costs associated with the use of the three drugs for treating mild and moderate stages of the disease has enabled us to make a positive recommendation for their use in mild disease."

Interim Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society, Ruth Sutherland said: "This decision stands to benefit hundreds of thousands of people. The drugs aren't a miracle cure but they can make important differences to people's lives. For the price of a cup of coffee they can mean the difference between recognising your loved ones and playing with your grandchildren. It is critical that this draft decision becomes a reality and that all people with Alzheimer's are given the opportunity to benefit from these treatments. It will be important to ensure any new guidance is monitored closely to end postcode prescribing and ensure these drugs are available across the country."

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