Anxious wait over drugs review

ALZHEIMERS patients across Suffolk are today facing an anxious wait to find out if a series of drugs could be withdrawn from the NHS.The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), a body which approves drugs for distribution, has been undertaking a review of the medicines over the past few months after concerns were raised about their cost-effectivness.

ALZHEIMERS patients across Suffolk are today facing an anxious wait to find out if a series of drugs could be withdrawn from the NHS.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), a body which approves drugs for distribution, has been undertaking a review of the medicines over the past few months after concerns were raised about their cost-effectivness.

A decision on whether to continue licensing them is expected to be made today but the final outcome will not be formally announced until July 13, leaving millions of sufferers across the country in a state of uncertainty.

Glynis Francis, coordinator for the Ipswich and East Suffolk branch of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "These drugs have worked very well for an awful lot of people.

"As far as we understand, if people are already on them they will be allowed to continue but if the NICE decision goes ahead it won't be available for anyone new.

"For the people these drugs work for, it increases the time they can stay with their families, and means they are not having to go into care.

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"The amount of money the NHS could save by keeping them out of hospital far outweighs the cost of the drugs."

The four drugs under review are donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), galantamine (Reminyl) and memantine (Ebixa).

Health experts say they are effective at improving memory, as well as helping to control behaviour and aid people with daily living tasks.

Professor Susan Benbow, chairman of the Old Age Psychiatry Faculty, said: "While these drugs do not provide a cure, or affect the underlying disease process, they can bring substantial benefit to many patients.

"On average, drugs for Alzheimer's disease delay the decline associated with the illness by six to nine months."

NICE is concerned over the cost of providing these drugs - which equates to around £2.50 per patient per day.

Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, said: "The Institute's methodology and process for evaluating medicines has been assessed by the World Health Organisation to be of the highest standard and the board has full confidence in the conduct of the appraisal of the Alzheimer's drugs."

Are you worried the decision could effect you? Have you benefited from these drugs? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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