The Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged a new drive by the UK to discover new drugs and treatment that could slow down the onset of dementia or even deliver a cure by 2025.
Speaking at a summit of world health and finance leaders in London, Mr Cameron said immediate action was needed to address a market failure on dementia research and drug development, which had seen global spending on dementia at five times below research on cancer, with only three drugs making it onto the market in the last 15 years.
The commitment comes as the new World Dementia Envoy, Dr Dennis Gillings, warns that if global leaders do not incentivise businesses to invest in research and bring in faster, cheaper clinical trials, they will not meet the ambition to find a cure or disease modifying therapy by 2025.
But much is already happening – with the UK doubling funding for dementia by 2015 and the Medical Research Council using the event to announce the creation of the world’s biggest study group for dementia, involving two million people, alongside a £100 million research pledge from Alzheimer’s Research UK – but that more is needed globally.
In the UK alone there are around 800,000 people living with dementia, worldwide that number is 40 million – and it is set to double every twenty years. So dementia now stands alongside cancer as one of the greatest enemies of humanity. Just as the world came together in the fight against HIV/AIDS, we need to free up regulation so that we can test ground-breaking new drugs, and examine whether the period for market exclusivity could be extended. Without this radical change, we won’t make progress in the fight against dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Research UK campaign will see £100 million investment across initiatives covering diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Pledges as part of ‘Defeat Dementia’ include the launch of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre, a network of Drug Discovery Institutes, worth £30m, housed in academic centres in the UK and beyond to allow promising breakthroughs to be translated towards the clinic and a £20m Global Clinical Development Fund dedicated to supporting phase I and II clinical trials to take potential new treatments into testing in people as soon as possible.
The Medical Research Council has already launched the world’s biggest research cohort for use in dementias research through a new PPP involving 6 biopharma companies, all of whom will be agreeing to commit financially to UKDP in partnership. This Public-Private Partnership ‘the UK Dementias Research Platform’ includes over £16m funding (of which £12m is from the MRC plus company contributions). After a limited exclusion period for consortium partners, all UKDP data will be made available to the global research community.
New research by Professor Martin Knapp at the London School of Economics suggests the annual cost of dementia in the UK is approximately £21 billion. The research also shows that a treatment delaying the onset of dementia by 36 months would save the UK as much as £5 billion a year.
Facts and Figures:
Number of people with dementia in the UK is 800,000 and numbers are expected to double within thirty years.
Current estimates indicate 44.4 million people worldwide are living with dementia but with the world’s populations ageing, the World Health Organisation estimates that this number will nearly double every 20 years, to an estimated 65.7 million in 2030, and 115.4 million in 2050.
The devastating human cost is echoed by its huge economic costs. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$604 billion in 2010. About 70 per cent of the costs occur in Western Europe and North America.