At a glance: NICE reviews Alzheimer’s drugs

What’s happening? The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is reviewing the four drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease – and is due to report its findings next year.

Which brands will that potentially affect?

Reminyl (galantamine), which is made by Shire Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer’s Aricept (donepezil), Exelon (revastigmine) by Novartis and Merz’s Axura (memantine).

So what’s on the horizon in PR terms for these?

Shire has just given GCI Healthcare PR work for the launch of its new version of Reminyl – Reminyl XL (PRWeek, 5 November). It is a one-tablet-a-day, rather than twice-a-day treatment for dementia and should be available in the first quarter of next year. Media relations work will focus on early diagnosis of dementia and awareness of social issues for sufferers and carers.

Isn’t Aricept the market leader?

Aricept was the first dementia drug to market in 1997 and remains the number one. It is a once-a-day product already but this is clearly the brand that Shire is aiming to topple with Reminyl XL.

So Pfizer is quaking in its clinical boots?

Not so you would notice. A company spokesman says the fact that Aricept has 70 per cent of the market demonstrates that clinicians are comfortable prescribing it. Clew Communications handles media relations for the brand. The Workhouse, meanwhile, is handling UK PR for Exelon.

What about Merz’s Axura?

It’s slightly different from the other three drugs, which are all used in the treatment of mild to moderate dementia. Axura is for people in the moderate to severe range.

So much for the brands. What’s the NICE timescale?

NICE plans to publish its guidance in May 2005.

How effective are the products?

The four brands are used to slow the rate of decline and make life more bearable for sufferers and carers.

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