Court ruling upholds guidance that limits availability of Alzheimer’s drug

From The Times:

A ruling by the national drug watchdog to limit access to an Alzheimer’s drug has been upheld by the High Court.

The drug company Eisai challenged the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) over its guidance that for most patients Eisai’s drug Aricept was not a cost-effective use of NHS resources.

This is a complex judgement. In November, the government body NICE, which issues guidelines regarding all aspects of healthcare in the National Health Service, stated that the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors Aricept (Donepezil), Reminyl (Galantamine) and Exelon (Rivastigmine) should be prescribed to patients with moderate, but not mild, Alzheimer’s Disease. This was based on assessments of the cost effectiveness of providing the drugs to patients in the early stages of the disease.

The pharmaceutical company Eisai, together with other interested parties, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, challenged this decision, on three grounds: that NICE was not correctly following the procedures for assessing cost-effectiveness; that its rigid assessment guidelines were discriminatory; and that it had behaved irrationally while dealing with previous appeals against its decisions.

The judge ruled in favour of NICE on all but one challenge. She ruled that the system used by NICE to assess patients was discriminatory, because it made it less likely that those with disabilities or language difficulties would be prescribed Aricept. NICE has therefore been ordered to change its assessment procedures to take these factors into account.

The Times has the full court judgement