Leading scientists highlighted the possibility for breakthroughs in the hunt for a dementia drug to provide an effective “cure” for dementia for the G8 summit on 11 December 2013. The G8 summit committed member nations to sign up to “The ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 and to increase collectively and significantly the amount of funding for dementia research to reach that goal”.
As the health ministers of G8 nations met in London for a landmark dementia summit in December 2013, senior British researchers spearheading efforts to find a dementia cure said that research had entered “a new era”. “I am more encouraged for the future now, than I have ever been,” said Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “We now understand far better, that the pathology of this disease starts early on, maybe 10 years before we see any symptoms. We now have the tools to image that pathology…that will enable us to investigate drugs that will affect it. I am full of hope that we are going to have a breakthrough in the next five years”.
Clinical trials of a new Alzheimer’s drug had already shown the potential for it to be effective in mild cases, he said, adding that the manufacturer was now working on further trials to investigate its effect on patients with mild symptoms of dementia. If successful, the drug could eventually be prescribed as a preventive before symptoms of dementia begin to show, delaying or halting the onset of the disease, in the same way that statins are currently prescribed to people at high risk of heart disease or stroke.
“As soon as we get efficacy in one drug that will unlock so many other things,” Dr Karran added. “We’ll then have an understanding of the biomarkers that will help us bring through other drugs far more rapidly.”
Highlighting the urgency of scientists’ efforts to combat the disease, the Alzheimer’s Society published new figures revealing that the global burden of dementia has increased by 22 per cent in just three years. 44 million people worldwide now have the disease, a figure which is projected to rise to 76 million by 2030. In western Europe, incidence rates are on track to double by 2050.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society said that dementia was becoming “the biggest health and social care challenge of this generation.”
The G8 is our once in a generation chance to conquer this condition and we must see meaningful action after the talking is over.
We live in hope that the same international effort taken to eradicate diseases such as smallpox can now be brought to bear on dementia within our lifetime so that our generation can be the first to not have to be a burden on our children as we get older. Let us also hope that our generation can step forward to give the care and love required for those presently living with dementia to not have to suffer unnecessarily.