Saturday, December 28, 2013

G8 'will develop dementia cure or treatment by 2025'

An elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease is comforted by her husband.

Leading nations have committed to developing a cure or treatment for dementia by 2025 at the G8 dementia summit. Health ministers meeting in London said it was a "big ambition" and that they would significantly increase funding for research to meet that goal.

The UK has already said it aims to double its annual research funding by 2025. The global number of dementia sufferers is expected to triple to 135million  by 2050. The G8 said it would "develop a co-ordinated international research action plan" to target the gaps in research and ways to address them. 

Dementia across the globe

  • 44 million
    globally have dementia
  • 135 million
    will have the disease in 2050
  • By then
    will be poor and middle income
  • $600bn
    global cost of dementia
  • In the UK, cancer research gets
    as much funding as dementia
Source: Alzheimer's Society

It also called on the World Health Organization to identify dementia as "an increasing threat to global health" and to help countries adapt to the dementia time bomb. In a statement it said "We recognize the need to strengthen efforts to stimulate and harness innovation and to catalyse investment at the global level."

Dementia is incurable and ultimately leaves people needing full-time care as brain function wastes away. There is growing concern that some countries will simply not cope with the growing burden of dementia.

It costs the world billions of dollars each year: $604bn in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.  Health ministers from the G8 nations are meeting - under the presidency of the UK - to find the best ways to advance research.

Dementia is heading towards being the biggest health and care problem of a generation so you'd think it would have the funding to match. Yet it really is the poor relation of other diseases. It's a pattern reflected around the world. Part of the problem is that until recently dementia was considered a "normal part of ageing" whereas cancer has been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.  It means dementia research is starting from a low base. The UK is aiming to double its spending, but this will still leave dementia significantly behind.  The Alzheimer's Society says it expects more.
David Cameron called on governments, industry and charities all to commit more funding. He said the G8 should make this the day "the global fight-back really started". Mr Cameron told the summit: "This disease steals lives, wrecks families and breaks hearts."
"If we are to beat dementia, we must also work globally, with nations, business and scientists from all over the world working together as we did with cancer, and with HIV and Aids. This is going to be a bigger and bigger issue, the key is to keep pushing."

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "The amount [of money] going into research is too little.
We would like a cure to be available by 2025. It's a big, big ambition to have. If we don't aim for the stars we won't land on the moon." However, so far only the UK has made a definite funding announcement with the other nations committing to "a significant increase in overall dementia research".
"Dementia has come out of the shadows and is centre stage - so we must ensure G8 has a lasting legacy.  Every month counts for the millions of people living with dementia worldwide."

Hilary Evans, from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This action plan is the best possible news for people living with dementia, it tells them that the world will fight for them, and that the best and most collaborative science is our greatest weapon.
"With the right investment, we can be more optimistic than ever that we will meet if not exceed the G8's 2025 target."
A dementia brain scan will also be introduced for some NHS patients with complicated symptoms.
It could help rule out Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, by hunting for damaged proteins in the brain. A radioactive marker which binds to amyloid, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, will be injected. If there is amyloid in the brain then the tracer will show up on brain scans.

What is dementia?
  • It is an umbrella term that describes about 100 diseases in which brain cells die on a huge scale
  • All damage memory, language, mental agility, understanding and judgement
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common form, affecting 62% of those living with dementia
  • It gets worse with time and eventually people are left completely dependent on carers
  • It is far

                    David Cameron: ""If we are to beat dementia, we must work globally"

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