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Alzheimer drug U-turn by Suffolk Health

PUBLISHED: 12:13 24 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:34 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK Health backtracked and admitted it does prescribe the drug Aricept to Alzheimer's Disease sufferers.

The admission came after an Evening Star investigation into why the drug - also known as Donepezil - was not available on prescription in Suffolk, after Audrey Weetch, wife of the former Ipswich MP Ken Weetch, was denied it to treat her illness.

SUFFOLK Health backtracked and admitted it does prescribe the drug Aricept to Alzheimer's Disease sufferers.

The admission came after an Evening Star investigation into why the drug – also known as Donepezil - was not available on prescription in Suffolk, after Audrey Weetch, wife of the former Ipswich MP Ken Weetch, was denied it to treat her illness.

The health authority had said the drug was not yet available in Suffolk because it had to be prescribed at special clinics – even though National Council for Clinical Excellence (NCCE) which pens the guidelines, said they were not necessary.

But today it backtracked, after hearing that David Cubbin used to collect the drug on monthly prescription for his late mother Joan Cubbin who was mayor of Ipswich in 1992/93.

A spokesman for Suffolk Health admitted: "Donepezil and other medicines for Alzheimer's Disease, have been prescribed by some specialists in Suffolk for several years.

"Suffolk Health is currently working with local clinicians to ensure that all patients across the county are treated in a similar manner."

Mr Cubbin said: "I was surprised to read the story in the Star, because unlike Mrs Weetch my mother had been prescribed Aricept (Donepezil) for some time.

"I can't give exact dates, but it is at least 18 months and probably nearer three years. I

know, because I used to collect her prescription every month."

Mrs Cubbin of Robin Drive died aged 78 on August 16, and Mr Cubbin added: "As far as I know she was still receiving Aricept right up until the last few days of her illness.

"We always received great support from her local GP practice and the specialist consultants who were responsible for her case.

"I wouldn't want to embarrass them if they acted against policy, but equally I would not like to think of any Alzheimer's sufferer being denied help, as I have seen first hand how dreadful Alzheimer's can be."

Mr Cubbin, 40, of Cavendish Street, said his mother's condition seemed to improve when she took the medication.

He said: "I am not a medical expert, but when she didn't take it two or three times, we noticed the difference within a week. It did seem to slow down the degenerative process of the disease. That is a subjective opinion."

The Suffolk Health spokesman added: "The authority supports the NCCE guidance on the provision of treatment for patients with Alzheimer's Disease.

"Suffolk Health does not make individual decisions about the treatment of patients. This is quite rightly left to clinicians."

Weblinks:

www.aricept.com

www.alzheimers.org.uk

Alzheimer's factfile:

Alzheimer's disease is the commonest form of dementia, affecting 55pc of dementia sufferers.

It is a physical illness which destroys the mind and the ability to think, reason and remember.

It can affect anyone, occasionally as young as 30, but it is most common amongst elderly people, affecting one person in five over 80.

The onset of the disease is usually very gradual, making it very difficult to identify. The early symptoms are forgetfulness, disorientation and restlessness.

Alzheimer's disease is, at present, incurable.

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