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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Life savings pay for drug NHS wouldn't fund

Alzheimer's drugs: worth paying for with your pension?
Mr and Mrs Dobson paid the price of living in a health authority that doesn't fund drugs for Alzheimer's disease with their life savings.

When, in her 70s, Mrs Dobson was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, her husband ended up selling his car and his PEP in order to pay for the drugs she needed to improve her symptoms.

The family GP told the couple that he was unable to prescribe one of the cholinesterase inhibitors, such as Aricept, in an attempt to check the decline in Mrs Dobson's health.

But they were keen to give her the chance of having treatment that could improve her memory and reduce her anxiety so they decided to pay to see a psychiatrist privately.

That meant travelling from their home in Portsmouth to a private hospital in Southampton.

When the cost of the consultations and the private prescriptions mounted and the car was gone, Mr Dobson hired a car for the journey between home and hospital.

The PEP was cashed in too for, as a retired manual worker, Mr Dobson wasn't particularly well off.

Quality of life

But it was worth it because the Aricept they paid for made such a difference to Mrs Dobson's quality of life.

Even the GP agreed - but he still wouldn't prescribe it.

The situation the Dobsons found them in is far from unusual - the majority of the 45 health authorities in the UK that do fund Alzheimer's drugs restrict their use to specialists only.

The drugs cost 100 a month and restricting them to small numbers of patients is also common.

In fact Portsmouth does now pay for a small number of patients to receive Aricept or similar treatments.

But Dr David Wilkinson, consultant in old age psychiatry at Moorgreen Hospital in Southampton is furious at what he sees as "rationing by age".

"I just don't understand why we all roll over - no-one's going to chop a doctor's hand off if he writes a prescription for something his patient needs."

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Health
Alzheimer's vaccine 'safe to use'
21 Sep 00 | Health
14bn bill for Alzheimer's
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