Further evidence of the benefits of treating Alzheimer‚s disease patients with Lundbeck’s glutamate antagonist, Ebixa (memantine), has come from a 1,845-patient study presented at the 7th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease in Sorrento, Italy.

The news is likely to add fuel to the fire of those who disagree with the ruling by the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence earlier this month that Ebixa, as well as the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs, Aricept (donepezil) from Eisai, Novartis’ Exelon (rivastigmine) and Shire Pharmaceuticals/Johnson & Johnson’s Reminyl (galantamine), were not cost effective and should not be available on the National Health Service [[02/03/05e]].

The decision has resulted in a public outcry, with even UK Health Minister Dr Steven Ladyman suggesting in the press that he would like to see the decision overturned. A report in The Guardian said Dr Ladyman felt that NICE was wrong to ignore the social implications of the action, even if it does not view these drugs as clinically cost-effective. The Department of Health is due to publish its own position on the case this week.

In the latest, open-label study, Ebixa was found to provide a significant improvement in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients after six months‚ treatment. The data back up earlier results from placebo-controlled trials, said Lundbeck, which earned 770 million kroner in 2004, a rise of 153% over the prior year [[10/03/05e]]. The drug is also marketed in the USA as Namenda by Forest Laboratories.

Meanwhile, a second, 46-patient study presented at the AD/PD 2005 meeting has shown that Alzheimer’s patients on Aricept can be safely switched to Ebixa, with no loss in efficacy.