Fight for Alzheimer's Drugs Goes to Court; Victory for Daily Mail Campaign over Judicial Review

Article excerpt

Byline: JENNY HOPE

The NHS rationing body will be challenged in the High Court to justify its decision to deny treatment to thousands of Alzheimer's sufferers.

The landmark challenge by the Alzheimer's Society will be heard thanks to an appeal by the Daily Mail which raised [pounds sterling]230,000 towards legal costs.

Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Judi Dench, Claire Rayner, Russell Grant and Richard Briers were among those outraged by the decision to deny patients the [pounds sterling]2.50a- day drugs on costs grounds.

The ruling by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence does not have any appeal procedure, so campaigners have to go through the courts to challenge it.

They were yesterday granted a judicial review into the decision.

It will investigate why three anti-cholinesterase drugs - Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl - were banned for use on patients in the early stages of disease.

Another drug, Ebixa, is limited to patients with severe symptoms who are taking part in a clinical trial.

But research has shown that patients who begin the drug treatment at a later stage never catch up with those who began earlier - suggesting that early treatment leads to an improved long-term prognosis.

Up to half of those treated with the drugs respond to them, and the benefits can last for one to two years.

The Society has acknowledged the treatments don't work for everyone - and don't work forever - but its campaigners say that patients have a right to help from the Health Service.

NICE acknowledges the drugs work but says they are not costeffective - even though they cost only [pounds sterling]2.50 a day.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: 'This is an important step forward in our fight for the rights of people with Alzheimer's disease and their carers. …