The number of prescriptions dispensed in England for approved medicines to treat Alzheimer’s disease is six times higher than a decade ago, official figures have revealed.

Health and Social Care Information Centre data show that prescriptions for NICE approved medicines donepezil (initially Eisai’s Aricept), Shire's Reminyl (galantamine), Novartis’ Exelon (rivastigmine) and Lundbeck’s Ebixa (memantine) rocketed from 502,000 in 2004 to 3.0 million in 2014, as prevalence of the disease continued to spread.

The cost to the NHS of prescriptions for these medicines (dispensed in primary care) was £45.7 million, climbing from £42.8 million in 2004, but falling well under the high point of £110.8 million in 2011. The decline from 2011 was driven by a decrease in the net ingredient cost of donepezil, after its patent expired and cheaper generic formulations became available.

The figures also show that the proportion of people with a dementia diagnosis in their GP record jumped from 643 per 100,000 people in April 2014 to 755 people per 100,000 in December 2015, with all areas of the country recording increases. 

They also reveal that 39 percent of carers spent 100 or more hours each week looking after dementia patients this year, with 52 percent spending 50 hours or more, highlighting the widespread burden of the disease.

The data has been published as part of the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s Focus On Dementia report, which combines, for the first time, a range of information on dementia, including diagnosis, prescribing, social care, mental health and lifestyle trends. 

“Our ageing population means that the way we diagnose, treat and care for people with dementia will be increasingly important to many of us,” noted responsible statistician Jonathan Hope. “I hope that bringing statistics together from different aspects of health and care services can give us a more rounded picture of the treatment and experiences of those with dementia and their carers.”

Publication of the report also comes hot on the heels of the launch of Public Health England’s new Dementia profile comparison tool, which enables sharing of key information between localities, to allow commissioners to better fulfil their planning objectives and ultimately improve outcomes.