Huge increase in UK Alzheimer’s prescriptions offset by generics

Prescribing of drugs to treat patients with Alzheimer’s has risen six-fold in the last 10 years, reflecting greater efforts to tackle the disease in the UK.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have been identified as one of the biggest health problems facing the world in the 21st century, as more and more people live longer and develop the disease.

New data from England shows that the proportion of people diagnosed with dementia in their GP record rose from 643 per 100,000 people in April 2014 to 755 people per 100,000 in December 2015, a rise of around 17 per cent.,

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) Focus on Dementia report shows the number of prescriptions dispensed for NICE-approved medicines for the disease rose even faster, from 502,000 in 2004 to 3.0 million in 2014.

But spending on the drugs is barely higher than it was in 2004, thanks to the launch of generic versions of treatments, especially Eisai/Pfizer’s Aricept (donepezil).

Primary care prescriptions for all Alzheimer’s drugs rose from just 0.5 million in 2004 to 3 million in 2014. The cost was £42.8 million in 2011, rising to a high of £110.8 million in 2011, and then falling back to £45.7 million in 2014, thanks to the patent expiries.

The new HSCIC report a wide-ranging review into the impact of the disease on patients, their carers, the NHS and social care services.

In particular, it reveals the huge burden shouldered by unpaid carers. The survey found 39% of carers who looked after someone with dementia spent 100 or more hours each week doing so in 2014/15. Over half (51%) of carers had been in this role for more than five years.

A year ago the UK government unveiled a five year strategy to fight dementia, with measures to boost research, improve care and increase public awareness of dementia.

For the pharma industry, there is hope that 2016 will bring some progress in drug development after a decade or more of setbacks and late-stage failures.

A pivotal phase 3 study readout is expected for Lilly’s EXPEDITION 3 trial of solanezumab in the final quarter of 2016, with hope the drug can help patients with early-stage, mild dementia.

Biogen’s aducanumab, Roche’s crenezumab and AstraZeneca/Lilly’s AZD3293 are also expected to produce potentially significant data this year.


Read the Focus on Dementia report here


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