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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 06:42 GMT
'Postcode problem' for disease sufferers
Alzheimer's patients
Thousands suffer from the disease in Scotland
New research has revealed that the prospect of Alzheimer's sufferers receiving key drug treatments is dependent on where they live.

Postcode Prescribing Persists, a report produced by Alzheimer Scotland-Action on Dementia, suggests that patients in some parts of the country are 12 times more likely to be able to access treatment.

It also raises concerns about waiting times of more than nine months in certain regions.

The research discovered people living in health board areas such as Ayrshire and Arran and Lothian were between five and 12 times more likely to receive treatment than people in areas with the worst provision - Grampian, Tayside, Highland and Orkney.

A number of drug treatments are now available

The charity also said provision in Argyll and Clyde, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley and Greater Glasgow was well below the level of estimated need.

And it found that in Ayrshire and Arran, the area with the highest provision, only 47% of people suitable for treatment were being looked after.

The charity produced a similar report one year ago which highlighted the problems experienced by people trying to access treatment for Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease, which attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.

Thousands of sufferers

People afflicted with Alzheimer's often suffer disturbances in their daily rhythm, which affects body functions such as sleep cycles, temperature, alertness and hormone production.

It is the most common cause of dementia and it damages individual brain cells so that the brain cannot work as well as it should.

In Scotland more than 58,000 people have dementia.

It is most common in older people but can affect people in their 40s, 50s or even younger.

Cathie Craigie
Cathie Craigie plans to raise the issue at Holyrood

Cathie Craigie, MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, plans to raise the issue in the Scottish Parliament and will say a sufferer's address should not influence the treatment.

She said: "Early diagnosis is essential for Alzheimer's disease sufferers, their families and carers.

"Just as important is access to available treatments.

"While these treatments do not work wonders for all, they can make a huge difference in the lives of Alzheimer's disease sufferers, from offsetting the disease's symptoms to enabling sufferers to do everyday things."

She added: "A person's address should make no difference to their ability to access medical treatments."

The report identified Grampian Health Board as one of the worst areas and said that the 25,000 allocated for the remainder of this year will only be enough to treat 4% of those suitable for treatment.

It also said delays for treatment, such as the nine-month wait in Forth Valley, can reduce its effectiveness.

Jim Jackson, the chief executive of the charity behind the report, said: "It is a matter of great concern that, four years after the launch of the first drug treatment for Alzheimer's disease, the uptake is so low in so many areas."

See also:

29 May 01 | Health
Alzheimer's drugs row
21 Dec 00 | Scotland
Alzheimer's test offers hope
21 Sep 00 | Health
14bn bill for Alzheimer's
29 Jul 98 | Health
Bright idea for Alzheimer's
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