A verdict on the first ever challenge of a decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will be announced on August 10, it was revealed yesterday, following a two-year campaign to ensure people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease get access to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors – the only medicines approved to treat this condition - on the National Health Service.

Hearings took place over a five-day period at the end of June as arguments were put forward to say that NICE had “drastically underestimated costs of care” and had “overlooked carer benefits” when drawing up its cost-effectiveness decision for Pfizer/Eisai’s Aricept (donepezil), Novartis’ Exelon (rivastigmine) and Shire’s Reminyl (galantamine).

NICE first ruled against the use of the three drugs on the NHS in March 2005, acknowledging that they were clinically effective, but stating they could not be deemed cost effective. Widespread public condemnation meant that this decision was partly overturned in November 2006 to permit patients with moderate disease access to the drugs, but a subsequently unsuccessful appeal to extend this to patients with mild Alzheimer’s drove Eisai/Pfizer as the lead claimant to pursue the first-ever judicial review against a NICE decision.

Eisai and Pfizer won the right to challenge NICE in the High Court back in May, and they are being supported by The Alzheimer's Society, which is acting as an interested party in the judicial review to represent the views of people with dementia and their carers.

Mrs Justice Linda Dobbs will hand down her ruling in the Royal Courts of Justice on 10 August.

Currently 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, and more than half have Alzheimer's disease. In less than 20 years, says the Alzheimer’s Society, nearly a million people will be living with dementia and this will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051.