I get asked this question frequently: "Does your mother take Aricept"? When I answer yes, I get the follow-up. "Does it work?"
I am certain that Aricept works well for my mother. There is little doubt that it has slowed the progression of Alzheimer's disease and helped smooth out her behavior. I know from personal experience it works well with other persons suffering from Alzheimer's but not all of them. I also learned it is critical if you suspect Alzheimer's or dementia to get to the doctor and get on the appropriate medication as soon as possible. Delaying this decision can be more harmful then you could ever imagine.
Previously, I wrote about author Terry Pratchett, who suffers from posterior cortical atrophy — a rare form of Alzheimer's. In the article Terry says the drug had a dramatic positive effect on him. Terry is raising the issue in the UK about the cost of Aricept and whether it should be free to those suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Aricept isn't cheap. Our cost is $166.29 for a 30-day supply or approximately $1995 a year. Medicare covers the first $2510 of prescribed medications before you get into the so-called doughnut hole (we pay the out of pocket co-pay of $25, so the actual coverage is less then $2510). Paying for Aricept plus my mother's other medications gets us into the doughnut hole early in the year. When you get into the doughnut hole you pay for the next $1540 in prescribed medications. This means zero coverage between $2510 and $4050. This is how Medicare works.
Our personal physician helps us out by giving us samples of drugs when he has them. Amazingly, he has not had Aricept samples available to us this entire year. It gets me to wondering about Pfizer. I guess they intend to make as much as they can before Aricept goes generic in 2010. When that happens Alzheimer's patients all over the world will benefit greatly. We used to pay over $100 a month for Zocor (simvastatin) but last year it went generic and it has now dropped to $10 per month (thank goodness).
They pay a similar price for Aricept in the UK so it is easy to understand why Terry Pratchett is upset. He is fighting the good fight in the UK.
I want to make it clear, I have nothing against Pfizer. The drug is fantastic, I believe in Aricept, my mother has benefited, and I believe Pfizer should make a profit. But, I continue to wonder why Medicare doesn't negotiate a better price. Most likely Medicare is the biggest purchaser of Aricept in the world.
Pfizer does offer an assistance program. If you have any type of prescription drug coverage, you won't qualify. If you do not have coverage and your income is under $25,000 you might. You can visit the Pfizer website's Patient Assistance Program or call 1-800-226-2072 to find out more. Learn more about Aricept.