Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Various media outlets are carrying the story today that people with dementia are receiving unequal drug treatment.

A survey of NHS spending on dementia drugs has found that one Northern Ireland health biard is spending £10 for every person over 65, compare with just £1 in Lothian, Scotland.

And the survey was carried out by statisticians from...Pfizer.

Which makes....Aricept.

Which is..."the number one prescribed Alzheimer's drug" (Source: Aricept website).

That’s not to say that “postcode prescribing” isn’t a problem. I’m sure it is. Certainly in my own case I’ve been told that I’ve been able to receive more expensive prosthetic limb components (which are “prescribed” just like a course of medication, although they’re harder to swallow) because the health authority in Wales I get them from is relatively well funded compared to, say, another authority in London.

Nevertheless, it’s clearly in the interests of Pfizer to highlight the fact that spending on Alzheimers drugs varies widely across the country despite the recommendations of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) that the drugs should be available to all that need them.

If health authorities can be named and shamed into spending more on dementia drugs, Pfizer will sell more Aricept and make bigger profits. It’s a simple and obvious equation.

The Department of Health has said that it’ll look at any evidence that Nice guidelines aren’t being followed, suggesting that Pfizer’s publicity offensive is already paying off.

If I were editing a news bulletins today instead of working out here in Athens I would feel very uncomfortable about running this “story” at all. It treads too fine a line between News and PR.


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