Britain To Revise Decision on Coverage of Alzheimer’s Treatments
The British government on Sunday announced plans to revise a proposed decision on coverage of medications for moderate Alzheimer's disease in a "closely watched test of what governments are willing to spend on health care," the Wall Street Journal reports (Whalen, Wall Street Journal, 1/23). Alzheimer's medications cost about $1,500 annually per patient in Britain for a total cost of about $100 million annually to the National Health Service.
In January 2001, the NHS National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence concluded that the benefit of Alzheimer's medications outweighed the cost, but the agency last year conducted a new cost-benefit analysis of Alzheimer's medications that used a different methodology and new clinical trial data. The analysis found that Alzheimer's medications cost more than $100,000 per "quality-adjusted life year," which means that the treatments cost $100,000 for each year they extend the life of a patient in perfect health.
NICE maintains that medications should cost no more than $50,000 per QALY. NICE announced the decision on Alzheimer's medications in March 2005 and reaffirmed the decision in June 2005.
The decision will affect only new Alzheimer's patients (California Healthline, 11/22/05).
However, after NICE officials reviewed additional trial data, the agency decided that the benefit of the main form of medications for moderate Alzheimer's outweighs the cost. According to NICE, moderate Alzheimer's accounts for about 40% of all cases.
Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture Alzheimer's medications and patient advocates praised the revised decision but raised concerns about access to treatments for patients with mild or severe forms of the disease. NICE will take public comments and issue a final decision in July (Whalen, Wall Street Journal, 1/23).