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Independents' Day

NICE wins Alzheimer's case

A court has upheld the right of NICE to restrict access to drugs for Alzheimer's disease – but ruled the institute's guidance was discriminatory against some groups of patients.

The keenly anticipated judicial review of the NICE appraisal on Alzheimer's disease drug treatment ruled the institute had not been irrational in its judgment or breached the principles of fairness.

But it had breached its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and the Race Relations Act by failing to give specific guidance on how to assess mental state in patients with linguistic difficulties. NICE has been asked to redraft its guidance to clarify how these patients should be assessed.

Overall, the court found in favour of NICE in five of the six counts on which it was challenged, relieving pressure on the institute to substantially review its methods for assessing cost-effectiveness.

In a statement, Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: ‘The legal challenge to our recommendation that drugs for Alzheimer's disease should only be prescribed to those in the moderate stage of the disease has failed.

‘Alzheimer's disease is a devastating illness, but the evidence indicates drugs are simply not effective for some patients. That is why we also issued last year on the broader support that should be pro-vided for people with disease and those who care for them.'

But Dr Paul Hooper, managing director of Eisai Limited, who initiated the review, claimed victory, saying: ‘This is great news for the many thousands of patients affected by Alzheimer's disease that would otherwise have been denied treatment based on NICE's original recommendations.'

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