fizer and Eisai have decided they will not lodge an appeal against the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s current guidance for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

In June, the cost watchdog said it was sticking by its original 2005 decision to reject the use of the acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors Aricept (donezepil), marketed by Pfizer and Eisai, Novartis’ Exelon (rivastigmine) and Shire’s Reminyl (galantamine) for patients with mild AD on the National Health Service.

The move came after a court ruled last year that NICE “breached the principle of procedural fairness” by refusing to allow the companies access to the economic model underpinning its decision, forcing the Institute to hand it over for scrutiny.

But while a subsequent consultation with stakeholders resulted in minor changes to its model, an Independent Advisory Committee concluded that these were not enough to make the treatments a cost-effective use of NHS resources in the mild stages of the disease, and so its guidance remained unchanged.

Eisai and Pfizer have been locked in a long battle with NICE over its stance that the drugs do not offer value for money for the NHS in this setting, but have decided not to appeal in this instance “in the interests of patients”, as the Institute has promised to review its existing AD recommendations provided no appeals are lodged now.

Nick Burgin, Managing Director of Eisai Ltd, said it is right that Eisai and Pfizer “do all we can to allow NICE to honour its stated commitment and to take into account new data that have become available as well as advances in economic modelling techniques”, and the firms have called on the Institute to provide a timeline for this review “as a matter of urgency”.

Call to triple funding
Meantime, UK charities are urging the government to commit to a national dementia research strategy and triple annual investment to £96 million within the next five years.

According to the Alzheimer's Research Trust and Alzheimer's Society, the UK lags behind France, Germany and the US in dementia research funding, and they have called on the government to “exploit the UK's huge scientific talent and lead the world in the race for a cure”.

Stressing the urgency of the situation, Alzheimer’s Society head Neil Hunt said dementia is “the health challenge of our generation”, while Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, added: “700,000 people in the UK live with dementia, costing our economy £17 billion annually. Given the stakes, the government cannot afford to get its dementia research policy wrong”.

Their call comes ahead of the government’s upcoming Dementia Research Summit, which is scheduled for this summer.