Lynda Bellingham hits out over Alzheimer’s drugs failure

The actress Lynda Bellingham has spoken about her anger that dementia drugs came too late to save her mother’s mind and are still not available to all patients.

Bellingham, 60, who became famous for playing the homely matriarch from the Oxo television commercials, said that her mother had dementia for ten years before she died in 2004, but was not given the drugs she needed in time.

She said: “Mum was put on Aricept, one of the new drugs that health chiefs will only fund for some sufferers. It helped a little but for her it came too late.

“I think it’s outrageous that patients are being told they can’t have these drugs.”

Aricept, which improves memory and day to day life for Alzheimer’s suffers, costs about £2.50 a day. The NHS currently only gives it to people with severe forms of the disease, a small proportion of the 700,000 people in Britain with Alzheimer’s.

The Loose Women presenter who is to star in a theatre production of Calendar Girls, said that watching her mother’s mental deterioration was “heart-breaking”.

“Towards the end Mum often didn’t recognise us. Logically you understood but emotionally it was devastating,” she said.

The family even had to make the difficult decision not to tell their mother that her husband had died because they worried she would not remember.

It comes after Carol Thatcher revealed this weekend that Lady Thatcher forgets the death of her husband and has to be reminded.

Terry Pratchett, the author who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s last year, has spoken out about the lack of funding the disease attracts and the poor availability of drugs.

He has said that the NHS was not “really set up to deal with” Alzheimer’s sufferers and expressed frustration that funding on research for a cure was three per cent of that for cancer.

Bellingham agreed that the disease attracts less attention than cancer because there “is no physical manifestation”.

She said: “We must act now to provide the care and support dementia patients and their families need.”


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