| Updated at: 1522 PST, Thursday, October 07, 2010|
LONDON: Alzheimer's sufferers who display 'mild' symptoms will be eligible to receive drug treatment from the NHS after a U-turn by the health watchdog on Thursday.
Hundreds of thousands of patients will now have access to the Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl drugs after the government's health rationing body, The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) lifted restrictions imposed in 2007.
The drugs -- which cost £2.80 a day per patient -- are currently only available to sufferers with a moderate form of the disease but will soon be available to all patients after a three year campaign by doctors, patients and the Alzheimer's Society.
"This is a momentous day for people with Alzheimer's disease and their carers," said Ruth Sunderland, the society's interim chief executive.
The drugs do not cure the disease but patients have reported an easing of symptoms including memory loss, anxiety and depression.
Nice have also recommended the prescription of Ebixa (memantine) -- which is only available as part of clinical trials at the moment -- to patients suffering more severe symptoms.
Nice's chief executive, Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Since we published our guidance in September 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs and, in the case of memantine, have reduced the uncertainty about its clinical effectiveness.
"In addition, we now have more information about the costs of living with and treating this very distressing disease, as it progresses through its mild, moderate and severe stages," he added.
Patients across England and Wales should be able to access the drugs from next spring.
There are around 465,000 diagnosed cases of the disease in the UK, with 62,000 new cases every year, a figure which is set to rise with an ageing population.