Industry Fury As UK Watchdog Curbs Alzheimer Drugs
Britain's cost-effectiveness health watchdog said Tuesday it wants to limit access to the four main drugs used to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, to the fury of pharmaceutical manufacturers. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that doctors should stop giving the drugs to new patients because they are not cost effective. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, a trade body, said the move was a "devastating blow" for patients, which put Britain out of step with rest of Europe and could jeopardize future investment in drug research. The row is the latest in a series of clashes between NICE and drug companies, who view the watchdog as a fourth hurdle for medicines that have already been shown to be safe, effective and of good quality. NICE said three of the drugs were not recommended to treat mild to moderate dementia -- Pfizer Inc and Eisai Co.'s Aricept; Novartis AG's Exelon; and Reminyl, made by Johnson & Johnson and distributed in Britain by Shire Pharmaceuticals Group Plc. "(They) are not recommended for use in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease," NICE said in a statement on its Web site (http://www.nice.org.uk/page.aspx?o=245908). A fourth drug, Ebixa, made by Danish group Lundbeck, was not recommended for its designated treatment of moderately severe to severe Alzheimer's outside clinical trials.