Former MP blasts health policy

FORMER Ipswich Labour MP Ken Weetch today rounded on his government's health policy after Alzheimer's sufferers were told they would not be given drugs on the NHS to slow the disease.

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FORMER Ipswich Labour MP Ken Weetch today rounded on his government's health policy after Alzheimer's sufferers were told they would not be given drugs on the NHS to slow the disease.

Mr Weetch's wife Audrey was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease five years ago when there were already questions about whether the drug Aricept should be prescribed for those in the early phase of the disease.

Now the government's National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has told doctors not to prescribe the drug in the early stages of the disease - even though it only costs £2.50 a day.

The decision outraged Mr Weetch, who told The Evening Star: “NICE decided that patients with Alzheimer's will now not be provided with drugs that can slow down the disease.

“We know it cannot cure Alzheimer's but it does stall the progress of the disease and means that people can have a meaningful life for longer.

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“It is vital for themselves and their families. It is outrageous that this is now being denied to so many people.”

Mr Weetch felt the decision effectively discriminated against the poor because people who could afford to buy Aricept would get it.

And the decision by NICE does not affect those - like Mrs Weetch - who have already been prescribed the drug.

“What is really outrageous is that this decision has been made to save money by a quango which doesn't seem to understand the human dimension.

“There are those in the government who are talking about the NHS into a trust to remove it from the control of politicians - this kind of decision shows exactly why that must not be allowed to happen.

“Such important matters which affect so many lives must not be made by unelected quangos.”

He said the amount of money that could be saved from not providing the drug would be insignificant in comparison with the cost of caring for an Alzheimer's patient in a residential home.

The couple still live in Ipswich, but Mrs Weetch, 71, needs 24-hour care from her 73-year-old husband.

He said: “She cannot read or write. She cannot deal with money and could not find her way home. But Audrey can follow a conversation and can watch television - and I am very glad for that.

“The drug has helped significantly to reduce the progress of the condition - it is totally unacceptable that people who are now being diagnosed with this dreadful disease will not be able to get it on the NHS.”

Is it right to deny patients drugs which cost only £2.50 a day? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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