Clinicians should decide who will benefit from Alzheimer’s medications
08 July, 2012
Clinicians should be free to exercise their own judgement when prescribing Alzheimer’s medications that may improve the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Australia’s submission to the Review of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme anti-dementia drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease recommends increasing, rather than restricting, access to the medications which have a clear benefit to many of the 280,000 Australians with dementia.
Glenn Rees, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, said the out-of-date and excessively complex rules for continued access to anti-dementia medicines devised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in 2001 must be changed to allow treating doctors and specialists to determine whether the medications are making a difference to the lives of people with dementia, based on their clinical judgement and expertise.
“Only a small proportion of people living with Alzheimer’s disease get access to these medications. The current rules are restrictive and not cost-effective when you take into account the time taken by specialists and consumers that have to jump through hoops to get access to this much-needed medication.
“Many consumers who experience a significant benefit from these medications do not meet the strict criteria for continuation. As a result, large numbers of consumers are paying for these medications out of their own pocket.”
Alzheimer’s Australia has received many messages of concern from people with dementia and their family carers about the possibility their access to these medications will be terminated.
“We are hearing that these medications play a significant role in helping people with dementia and their carers to achieve the best quality of life they can as they deal with a terminal condition,” Mr Rees said.
“There is evidence that these medications can delay entry to nursing homes and relieve stress on family carers.
“Our concern is that this review might make it even more difficult for people to access these medications.”
Mr Rees said that there are other ways to contain medication costs associated with dementia.
“There is evidence that antipsychotic medications are inappropriately prescribed to people with dementia before other treatments have been tried.
“Antipsychotic medications carry significant side-effects including increased risk of stroke and death. The government spends $20 million each year subsidising the medications for people with dementia.
“Improving medication management would be a far better way to improve cost-effectiveness than restricting access to the few medications which we know people value.”
Alzheimer’s Australia’s submission to the review was delivered to the Committee today.
For more information about the review click here.
For a copy of the submission, click here.
To download a copy of this media release, click here.