At a glance: Drugs firms in NICE legal challenge over Alzheimer's

What's happened?
Eisai and Pfizer, which are behind Alzheimer's drug Aricept, are to apply for a judicial review of NICE's decision to restrict access to Alzheimer's drugs. It is the first time NICE has been challenged in this way and is the latest instalment in the long-running Alzheimer's treatment saga.

How have charities reacted?
The Alzheimer's Society has welcomed the move - although the declaration from Eisai and Pfizer took it by surprise. The charity was gearing up broadcast-media comms in support of its own day of protests against the decision last Friday - which also received significant coverage.

So how did its in-house PR team react?
By putting out a statement in support of the drug companies' action and saying that it is seeking advice on whether it should now launch its own High Court judicial review.

Isn't there a danger of getting bogged down in legalese?
That's what the Alzheimer's Society is wary of. As well as claiming ‘flawed processes' at NICE, comms will centre on the plight of patients and carers following the body's decision. Before last week's legal bombshell, it was concentrating on regional and local PR support of ‘grassroots' influencers. The charity is claiming it costs just £2.50 a day to provide these drugs to patients. It has mobilised celebrity support, with Dame Judi Dench and Richard Briers speaking out against NICE.

Anyone else?
Even Richard McCourt  - Dick from BBC show Dick and Dom in da Bungalow - spoke out on local radio, pointing out that £2.50 is about the same as a ‘cup of coffee'.

What happens next?
NICE was due this Wednesday to publish its clinical guidelines on dementia, to which the Alzheimer's Society, Eisai and Pfizer were planning to respond.The drug firms' PR activity is likely to focus on landmarks such as the pre-hearing, if the challenge gets that far, and the results of any judicial decision.

For further information visit alzheimers.org.uk

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