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23 April, 2013

Government announces changes that will make it easier for people with Alzheimer’s disease to remain on anti-dementia medications.

On Monday 22 April, Ministers Plibersek and Butler announced changes to the rules regarding subsidised access to the four approved antidementia medications: Aricept, Reminyl, Excelon and Ebixa. This was a result of a review of the latest research evidence on their safety and effectiveness, as well as an examination of costs and prescribing rates by a committee reporting to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).

Alzheimer’s Australia made a number of submissions to the review in the second half of 2012 (available here) arguing that the restrictions determining who could and could not receive subsidised access to these medications for more than six months (only those who were able to demonstrate a significant improvement of 2-points on the Mini Mental State Examination; MMSE) were neither fair nor effective. After consulting widely with consumers, we argued that the 2-point improvement rule should be scrapped and that continued access should instead be subject to the judgement of the treating doctor (either GP or specialist) about whether or not the medications were having a beneficial effect for the person with dementia.

The changes announced on Monday will come into effect on 1 May, 2013, and will mean that people with dementia currently taking the medications will no longer be subject to the 2-point improvement restriction. Instead, consumers will be able to discuss the effects of the medication with their doctor and their families and carers in order to decide about the benefits of continuing treatment.

The medications will still only be available to people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease who are in the early-moderate stages of the disease. They are not a cure for dementia, nor does it help everybody. However for some people, they can assist in the management of symptoms for a period of several months to one or two years.

For more information, speak to your doctor, or see the Dementia Q&A sheet numbers 1 and 3 available here.

To download a copy of the media release, click here.