We all age and, given the UK's rapidly greying population, the problems associated with age are grabbing headlines as never before. So, when Aricept, the first licensed treatment for Alzheimer's, was launched by Eisai and Pfizer in 1997, demand was expected to be massive. Aricept is effective in the earlier stages of the disease - when sufferers are forgetful rather than totally disorientated - but it offers relief rather than a lasting cure. It works by boosting levels of the chemical acetycholine in the brain, temporarily improving short-term memory and making everyday life a lot easier. A controversial early television advertising campaign caused concern in the medical establishment, particularly about Aricept's cost-effectiveness. A number of health authorities refuse to prescribe it. Sales have been modest but, as one analyst says, 'It's all there is for Alzheimer's.'
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