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Prescriptions for Alzheimer’s drugs rise six-fold over past decade

Prescriptions for Alzheimer’s disease drugs donepezil, galantamine, memantine and rivastigmine went up from 502,000 in 2004 to 3 million in 2014, according to official figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) on 19 January 2016.

However, the HSCIC’s report, ‘Focus On Dementia’, also reveals the NHS drugs bill in 2014 for these products was only slightly higher than a decade earlier after one of the products, donepezil, came off patent, allowing cheaper generic alternatives to be prescribed.

The combined net ingredient costs for the four drugs – which are all approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to treat Alzheimer’s disease – was £42.8m in 2004, rising to £45.7m in 2014. The total bill peaked at £110.8m in 2011 but fell back significantly when donepezil came off patent.

Donepezil was the most commonly prescribed drug for Alzheimer’s disease in primary care in 2014, accounting for 1.8 million items compared with memantine (600,000) and galantamine and rivastigmine, which accounted for 300,000 each.

NICE recommends donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine as options for managing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is recommended as an option for those with moderate Alzheimer’s disease who cannot tolerate the other medicines, and for managing severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The HSCIC report also brings together wider dementia care data, including statistics on diagnosis, social care, mental health and lifestyle trends. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200523

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