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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Couple forced to buy NHS drug
Some drugs are still rationed on the NHS
A Bradford couple have spent almost 3,000 on a drug which should be freely available on the NHS.

Antonio Martinez has been forced to buy Aricept for his wife Helia, 75, who has Alzheimer's disease, because health bosses refuse to pay for it.

This is despite a ruling from the government's drugs watchdog in January 2001 that it should be available free on the NHS.

Aricept can help to slow down the progression of the disease in some patients.

Private prescription

Mrs Martinez was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two and a half years ago.

Her husband asked their local GP to prescribe Aricept for her.

We all pay our taxes we should all benefit from drugs prescribed freely
Antonio Martinez
"I had read up a lot on Alzheimer's and I knew that this drug could help to slow down the disease," he told BBC News Online.

"The GP told me that she had no objection to prescribing the drug but that she was not authorised to do it on the NHS.

"She gave me a private prescription for the drug and I've been paying for it every since."

A month's supply of Aricept costs Mr Martinez 114.19. His bill so far is running close to 3,000.

Despite repeated pleas, his local trust still refuses to pay for the drug.

Mr Martinez has considered taking them to court to force them to pay. However, the costs of such an action are prohibitive.

"Our financial situation is not brilliant," he says.

Mr Martinez is angry that the NHS has not been there to help when his wife needed it.

"We all pay our taxes we should all benefit from drugs prescribed freely," he said.

Good progress

According to Mr Martinez, Aricept has helped his wife.

"It has stabilised her. She speaks well, eats well and sleeps well."

We are currently in discussion with Bradford district care trust about how the service can be improved
Kevin Ellis, Airedale PCT
He is determined his wife will remain on Aricept even if the NHS continues to refuse to fund her treatment.

"It is difficult but I will not stop buying the drug even if I have to go begging."

Under the NICE guidelines, patients can only be prescribed Aricept if they have been tested at a memory clinic.

Memory tests enable doctors to determine how advanced the disease is and whether patients will benefit from the drug.

However, according to a report in Hospital Doctor magazine, there is no memory clinic in the area where the Martinez's live. As a result, doctors say they are unable to provide it.

Airedale Primary Care Trust said it was unable to comment on the case. However, it insisted money had been made available to fund the treatment.

"We provide Bradford District Care Trust with funding to provide this service for people with Alzheimer's disease," said Kevin Ellis, its chief executive.

But he added: "We are currently in discussion with Bradford district care trust about how the service can be improved and about setting up a memory clinic."




SEE ALSO:
Alzheimer's drugs still rationed
11 Nov 02  |  Health
Drug slows Alzheimer's progress
13 Aug 01  |  Health


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