Healthcare: GPs back Alzheimer's drug in face of negative reports

Pfizer and Eisai's Alzheimer's treatment Aricept looks to have retained the support of GPs despite its potential axe from the NHS, according to PRWeek's latest Brand Watch chart.

Almost three quarters (141) of 201 GPs polled had read, seen or heard something about Aricept in recent weeks. Almost half (49 per cent) believed the tone of information about the drug to be negative - but the bulk of GPs said their use of it would remain unchanged.

Only one per cent said negative coverage had persuaded them to halt prescribing, while only eight per cent said they had decreased its use.

Negative headlines have also had minimal effect on patients, with just ten GPs saying they had encountered concern from patients who had been exposed to news about the drug.

The negative coverage started earlier this year when the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that four Alzheimer's drugs, including Aricept, should no longer be made available on the NHS.

It said the products made only a minimal difference and did not justify the £80m spent on them each year.

Despite this apparent vote of confidence from GPs, the future of the drug is still far from certain. Following a consultation, NICE is to issue further recommendations at the end of the month, which could still back an NHS ban.

In terms of sources of information about Aricept, just fewer than half of GPs said they had read an article about the drug in a medical journal; four out of ten cited NICE and just over a third mentioned lay media.

Brand Watch is based on research by NOP World Health, via GP Net. NOP director Gary King said: 'The impact on GPs who actually prescribed the product was largely minimal.'

BRAND WATCH: PFIZER/EISAI'S ARICEPT

WHERE WAS IT THAT YOU READ, SAW OR HEARD ABOUT ARICEPT? (141 GPs)

Medical journal article 48%

NICE guidelines 40%

Article in lay media 36%

Medical journal ad 24%

Radio 18%

WHAT OVERALL FLAVOUR DID THE INFORMATION HAVE? (141 GPs)

Positive 29%

Neutral 22%

Negative 49%

HOW HAS THIS INFORMATION AFFECTED YOUR PRESCRIBING? (141 GPs)

Stopped 1%

Decreased 8%

No change 45%

Increased 1%

Not prescribed 45%

Started to prescribe 0%

WHAT WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO START OR INCREASE YOUR PRESCRIPTION OF THE

PRODUCT? (140 GPs)

Recommendation from hospital consultant 45%

Clinical trial results 42%

Positive coverage in professional press 26%

Positive experience of treating patients 22%

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