Best-selling author Terry Pratchett has criticised a decision to limit the availability of the drug Aricept to people in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Pratchett, an Alzheimer's sufferer, will tell the BBC's Panorama tonight that the decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's (NICE) ruling felt "like an insult".

"Alzheimer's is a particularly unpleasant disease. I don't know anyone who's got better from Alzheimer's. It strips our humanity a bit at a time until you end up a vegetable," the 60-year-old author will say tonight.

"Aricept can slow the disease's progress and costs just £2.50 a day. But there are 400,000 Alzheimer's sufferers in the UK so Aricept has been ruled out for NHS use in the mild stages except in Scotland.

"I have no trouble paying, but some people can't. My wife and PA noticed changes in me after two months on it. I used to fumble with buttons and seat belts. Now I get dressed normally and seat belts slide in first time. Mentally, it's the difference between a sunny day and an overcast day," the Discworld series writer declared.

"Alzheimer's scares people and at 04:00 in the morning it scares me, and Aricept is well worth having for the relief that it brings."

Pratchett said NICE's ruling was stripping patients of the benefits of the drug.

"I feel particularly angry on behalf of early onset patients because it feels like an insult and the younger you are the more insulting it is," he said.

"It's probably easier to get drugs off Fat Charlie round the back of the bus station than it is to get medicines - but there we are."

Pratchett was diagnosed with the disease back in December, since when he has been a fierce campaigner for sufferers of Alzheimer's.

18/08/2008 11:46:15