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Britain Gives Alzheimer's Drugs A Second Chance

An influential British arbiter of what's worth using in health care — and what isn't — is recommending that the National Health Services in England and Wales loosen restrictions on several Alzheimer's drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, says Aricept (donepezil, generically), Razadyne (galantamine) and Exelon (rivastigmine) look OK for patients with mild to moderate forms of Alzheimer's after all.

The new assessment represents quite a reversal from the group's hard line in 2006. Back then NICE decided the drugs weren't worth the money for treatment of people with milder Alzheimer's. Japanese drugmaker Eisai, maker of Aricept, was ticked off by what it considered to be NICE's flawed and secretive review.

The company sued, but NICE prevailed on most of the charges. Still it was compelled to release more details on its economic analysis, yet its restrictions on the medicines didn't change.

So what gives now? "Since we published our guidance in September 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs," explained NICE's CEO Sir Andrew Dillon, according to the Telegraph of London.

At this point the recommendations are still a draft, but they're expected to be implemented .

"Hundreds of thousands of people with Alzheimer’s disease who have been denied medical treatment could soon be given access to life-changing drugs on the NHS," the London-based Alzheimer's Society, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

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