Thursday, 26 February 2015

Can we ever believe the media

This week we heard that the media had overstated the benefits of the Mediterranean diet
We have also heard many times that certain foods and alcohol are bad for us one minute, then the next they are good for us.

This is very confusing to me and I guess that I am not alone with this.

They say that aluminium is bad for us, but here again is this just more media speculation we have no evidence to explain it.

No one knows what causes this illness, yet we see daily headlines about this or that being the cause of dementia, or this is a miracle cure etc, but just how much of this is headline grabbing, more about selling newspapers than true facts.

Many people take the media as being correct, but I have learnt that the British media will use and tactic to get their papers sold whether it's true or not.

We also have a Prime minister and government who claim to be dementia friends, yet they will not stand up to the press and stop these lies being printed, so are they frightened of clamping down on the media and these stories which are hardly true.

Surely these stories should never be printed if they are untrue, but I suppose at the end of the day the media simply do not care about those with the illness, they simply see us as a way of getting good headlines, totally ignoring the fact that we may see something that gives us hope, only to be dropped when we learn that the information is not correct.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Media overstates dementia benefits of Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is similar to the UK's recommended "Eatwell plate"
The Mediterranean diet is tasty and healthy
               
“New diet to fight dementia,” claims the Sunday Express, while The Independent reports: “Mediterranean diet could help beat dementia”.
Despite the media focus on the Mediterranean diet, this was only a small part of a review which aimed to discover whether some modifiable risk factors (such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure) were linked to the risk of developing dementia in people with existing mild cognitive problems.
The review found collated relevant studies, covering a wide variety of potential risk factors, finding the most evidence around diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health.
Researchers found that the evidence suggested diabetes increased the risk of “conversion” from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. However, this increased risk was not adjusted for other potential confounding factors such as physical activity or smoking – which could influence the results.
The researchers found a single study assessing the Mediterranean diet in people with one type of mild cognitive impairment (particular problems remembering specific events). It found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s among people with this type of mild cognitive impairment. However, it does not provide strong enough evidence to suggest that following the Mediterranean diet will definitely reduce the risk of a person with mild cognitive impairment developing dementia.
While this review is helpful, there is still a lot to be learned about risk factors for dementia and how to reduce risk.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from University College London and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, US. One of the authors reported receiving financial support from various sources including the National Institute on Aging and National Institute of Mental Health, as well as various pharmaceutical companies. The other authors reported no financial relationships with commercial bodies.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The main body of The Independent’s article is quite representative of this study, focusing on links with diabetes and mental health symptoms and risk of dementia. However, the choice to focus the headline on the Mediterranean diet is quite confusing and misleading. The Mediterranean diet was not the main focus of the review or its findings, and the evidence on it in the review comes from only one study. The Express' coverage was similarly skewed in focusing on diet.

What kind of research was this?

This was a systematic review that looked at which modifiable behaviours are associated with the development of dementia in people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
The researchers say that recent public health campaigns have increased the recognition and diagnosis of MCI – described as a state between normal ageing and dementia. MCI is where someone (or a relative or doctor) has concerns about their cognitive symptoms, but they have normal functional activities and do not meet a diagnosis of dementia.
Almost half of people with MCI are reported to develop dementia within the following three years. However, ways to prevent the onset of dementia are unclear. The researchers had conducted a previous review of randomised controlled trials investigating treatments for MCI, but they found no consistent evidence that any of the treatments reduced the person’s cognitive decline, or the risk of the person developing dementia.
In the absence of trial evidence, they aimed next to look at observational studies to get an idea of which modifiable risk factors (such as different lifestyle choices) are associated with an increased or reduced risk of dementia. This may help to identify ways people might be able to reduce the risk of dementia developing. 
A systematic review is the best way of gathering all the available evidence on a particular question. However, such reviews are always going to be inherently limited by the quality of the underlying studies identified.

What did the research involve?

The researchers searched two literature databases (PubMed and Web of Knowledge) using relevant search terms to identify published longitudinal studies of “potentially modifiable risk factors” in people with MCI that looked at dementia outcomes.
The researchers defined MCI as cognitive impairment identified from objective neuropsychological tests, in the absence of dementia or significant functional impairment. Dementia outcomes were dementia of any cause, or Alzheimer’s dementia specifically.
They assessed the quality of identified studies, specifically looking for studies which recruited a representative sample of the general older population, had followed at least 70% of the included participants for at least one year, and used objective assessment methods for diagnosing MCI and dementia.
They also graded the quality of evidence supporting each of their conclusions as follows:
  • grade 1 evidence: consistent evidence from higher-quality studies
  • grade 2 evidence: evidence from a single higher-quality study or consistent evidence from other studies
  • inconsistent evidence: described as “troublingly inconsistent”

What were the basic results?

The search identified 62 relevant studies, nine of which were considered high-quality. 30 of these studies were pooled in meta-analysis. The studies looked at the following risk factors in people with MCI, as follows:

Diabetes

The pooled results of seven of 10 studies (grade 2 evidence) found people with MCI who had diabetes were at increased risk of developing dementia during follow-up compared to those without diabetes (unadjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.65, with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.12 to 2.43).  

High blood pressure

The pooled results of seven of 11 studies (grade 2 evidence) did not find that this was associated with significantly increased odds of dementia (OR 1.19, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.73).

High cholesterol

Two studies (grade 2 evidence) found high cholesterol did not predict development of dementia (OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.50 to 1.68).

Smoking

Three studies (grade 1 evidence) found that smoking seemed to be associated with a decreased risk of dementia, but the relationship was no longer significant in the individual studies after adjusting for age. This suggested that the reason for the association could be due to smokers being more likely to die before they developed dementia.

Alcohol

Three higher-quality studies did not find any clear association between moderate alcohol consumption and development of dementia (grade 2 evidence).

Metabolic syndrome

One identified study (grade 2 evidence) found that metabolic syndrome predicted any-cause dementia in a specific type of MCI, termed "amnestic MCI". This was defined to be, “MCI with progressive symptoms and particular impairment of episodic memory”.

Mental health factors

The pooled results of four studies (grade 2 evidence) found an association between neuropsychiatric symptoms and dementia (OR 3.11, 95% CI 1.38 to 7.02). Pooled results of 13 studies did not find a significant association between depression symptoms and dementia (OR 1.35, 95% CI 0.89 to 2.06).
However, there was variability across studies. The studies following samples from the population that reported conversion from any type of MCI consistently found depressive symptoms were associated with increased risk of development of all-cause dementia (grade 1 evidence). However, the findings of studies in people with amnestic MCI and in groups of people with MCI identified through medical clinics were less consistent.
There was inconsistent evidence on any association with anxiety or apathy.

Dietary factors

The Mediterranean diet was the media focus, but only one study was identified, including 482 people with MCI. It was of high quality, and reported that a Mediterranean diet (low in meat and dairy products; high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and fish) was associated with a lower risk of conversion from amnestic MCI to Alzheimer’s dementia (grade 2 evidence). Of other dietary factors, three studies found suggestions that lower folate level is associated with an increased risk of conversion to dementia (grade 2 evidence).

Education

Seven studies (grade 1 evidence) found that number of years in education for people with amnestic dementia did not predict dementia.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers conclude that diabetes increases the risk of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
They report that other potentially modifiable risk factors include the metabolic syndrome, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and low dietary folate. They suggest that dietary interventions and interventions to reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms may decrease risk of onset of new cases of dementia.

Conclusion

This was a systematic review that identified longitudinal studies that have looked at the association between modifiable risk factors in people with mild cognitive impairment and the development of dementia.
Despite the media headlines highlighting the Mediterranean diet, this was only a small part of this review – just one study of around 400 people that found the Mediterranean diet reduced risk of conversion from one type of MCI (amnestic MCI) to Alzheimer’s dementia.
So, despite the often-studied potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, this single study does not provide firm and conclusive evidence that following the Mediterranean diet will reduce the risk of a person with MCI developing dementia. Ideally, these findings need to be confirmed in other studies.
Such a systematic review is always going to be inherently limited by the underlying quality and methods of the included studies. This research found the largest body of evidence for diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health factors.
The largest body of evidence in this review suggested that diabetes increases the risk of conversion from MCI to dementia. However, even then this increased risk was in analysis that was not adjusted for other potential confounders. For example, with a condition such as diabetes, it’s possible that other cardiovascular risk factors may be involved in any association with the development of dementia, particularly vascular dementia.
It is also important to recognise that while this review did not find association with other factors such as high cholesterol, smoking or alcohol and dementia development, this is not to say these modifiable risk factors are definitely “safe”. The review only found few and variable quality studies addressing these factors.
It is important to note that the researchers’ previous systematic review of randomised controlled trials did not find that any interventions reduced the risk of conversion from MCI to dementia. In the absence of such evidence, observational studies can provide an idea of which factors look like they could be increasing risk. However, we can’t say for sure that changing them will definitely reduce risk.
Overall, this systemic review provides a summary of the currently available evidence on MCI and the risk factors for dementia in people with MCI. However, there is still much to be learned about risk factors for dementia and how to reduce risk.
Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.

Dementia research matchmaker scheme

 


Dementia research

 

A scheme to match dementia researchers with members of the public who are willing to take part in studies has been launched.


The online and phone service in England, Scotland and Wales helps people find the projects that most suit them.

It is funded by the Department of Health and NHS England.

Experts say a lack of access to volunteers has hampered critical research into the illness.

Start Quote

We need lots of people signing up in order to find the right people for the right study at the right time”
End Quote Sue Boex Carer

Dementia affects more than 850,000 people across the UK.

According to government figures, fewer than 5% of people with the condition currently take part in studies.

Researchers are calling for patients, carers and anyone over 18 who is interested in participating - whether they have been affected by dementia or not - to sign up.

By registering with Join Dementia Research, people give permission for scientists to contact them with studies that fit their profiles.

Projects vary from trials of new dementia treatments to surveys looking at how to improve patients' quality of life.

There is no obligation for people to take part and volunteers can opt out if they want to.
'Specific criteria'
The scheme has already been piloted across north London for the last six months, with more than 1,600 people signing up to show interest.

Some 200 have participated in studies so far.

Hilary Evans, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "We know there is a strong appetite from the public to play a role in dementia research, but until now there hasn't been an easy and co-ordinated way for people to register their interest."

Sue Boex, one of the carers who helped design the initiative, said: "This is a very exciting initiative and one we really need people to get behind.

"Because studies have very specific criteria, we need lots of people signing up in order to find the right people for the right study at the right time."

Prof Martin Rossor, of the National Institute for Health Research, said: "The government and charities have increased funding for dementia research over the last few years, meaning more studies are being done than ever before, but it is often difficult to find willing volunteers at the right time.

"Growing the number of willing research volunteers will help push forward research to make advances in treatment, prevention and care."

Join Dementia Research is a collaboration between the National Institute for Health Research, Alzheimer's Research UK, Alzheimer's Society, Alzheimer's Scotland and UCL Partners.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Dementia diagnosis within 6 weeks

Today we heard that doctors were being told to speed the dementia diagnosis procedure up from 6 months if your lucky, to 6 weeks. 

The National Health Service is already overloaded, and we live in a time where you cannot see a doctor normally for 3-4 days.

 It also takes time to get an appointment to see a specialist, so how on earth do they think people can be diagnosed with dementia within 6 weeks. 

Hospitals are stretched to the limit and being run by incompetent managers as this government knows only too well, because they are sat on a report by Sir Stuart Rose who was commissioned to look into the state of the Health Service. But Mr Cameron will not admit to the existence of this report, so just how can anyone rely on his honestly.

Family doctors are already overloaded, and putting this extra work on them at this time is total stupidity, because they will be blamed when people are not diagnosed within the 6 weeks 

At the end of this there is no treatment so what is the point of a fast diagnosis procedure. 

To me it's just another political gimmick to encourage people to think that they care about people with dementia while encouraging them to vote this government back into power again.

This is very sad when we live in a time where money for medication is being cut back, yet they are implying that everyone diagnosed as having dementia will get medication. 

If this government was at all concerned they would have admitted that dementia can strike at any age, but they carry on talking about dementia being age related 

I think this government are using family doctors as whipping boys, to ensure that they get their own way, with an impossible target.

It's only a few weeks ago when this government said that they would pay family doctors for every person they diagnosed as having dementia 

Pardon me for being cynical, but I feel that all this coming out this weeks tricks me of a desperate government which is using this illness to get themselves out of a huge mess.

Dementia and sight loss


Dementia and sight loss


Frequently Asked Questions



Contents











Introduction


This document addresses some of the frequently asked questions that are asked by people affected by dementia and sight loss, their carers, and practitioners in dementia and vision services. The practical advice and information offered throughout this document has not been evaluated and is presented in order to share practical approaches. Feedback and information about other approaches is welcomed.


General queries


Q: What are the general principles surrounding services for people affected by dementia and sight loss?


A: Generally, taking a person-centred approach ensures the most comprehensive information, support and advice is offered to those affected by dementia and sight loss.


Q: What are the impacts of dementia and sight loss on someone and how should I approach this?


A: Dementia and sight loss may each cause confusion or disorientation and lead to loss of independence, activities and social contact. Both conditions change and flexibility in response is essential.


One condition may mask or be mistaken for the effects of the other and lead to inaction. For example sight loss may lead to disorientation and confusion and if this is attributed to dementia actions that can make the most of vision (such as improving lighting) may not be taken.


Q: What is the role of diagnosis?


A: Diagnosis is essential:

·        Ophthalmologists diagnose the causes of sight loss

·        Optometrists examine eyes and assess vision

·        Old-age psychiatrists diagnose dementia.


Diagnosis is a first step in defining appropriate interventions.


Q: What is the link between dementia and sight loss?


A: 750,000 people have dementia in the UK, most of whom are over 65 and around 1 in 7 of the over 65s is living with significant sight loss. By the age of 75 at least 2.5% of people will have both conditions. As the population ages, the number of people with both dementia and sight loss will increase. In care homes, studies indicate a higher proportion of residents may have both conditions


Because dementia affects the way we perceive and process information from our eyes, some forms of dementia create apparent sight loss. Eye conditions that cause sight loss and normal ageing of the eye may occur alongside dementia. Whatever the cause of sight loss, very few people have no sight and there are approaches that can make the most of sight.


Q: I work with patients, residents or customers who may suffer from dementia, sight loss or both. How can I better equip myself to support people suffering from these conditions?


A: Visual awareness training for staff working with people with dementia is useful. Information about sight loss, its causes and effects is helpful to family carers and friends.


Dementia awareness training for staff working with older people with sight loss is useful. Information about dementia and its effects is helpful to family carers and friends.


Identifying sight loss: first steps


Q: I suspect someone diagnosed with dementia is beginning to lose their sight. How can I be sure?


A: The effects of dementia may disguise sight loss caused by an eye condition, normal ageing of the eye or dementia itself. Check if the person finds it difficult to do any of the following to help you confirm possible sight light loss:

·        Recognise people

·        Be in bright light, low light or both

·        Read facial expressions

·        Find things

·        Read, or enjoy familiar hobbies

·        Manage unfamiliar surroundings

·        Locate food on the plate

·        Manage current spectacles (perhaps saying “I need new glasses.”)


If you suspect someone with dementia has sight loss then a full diagnosis is essential. A full eye examination, free to eligible people, is available at high street optometrists. People who can’t attend without support may be eligible for an eye examination in their home. Contact opticians, GPs or your PCT for information.


Diagnosis is important as some eye conditions that cause sight loss can be treated to avoid further loss of vision. Knowing what eye condition someone has may give you an idea of the kind of sight loss they have and how best to help them manage with the changes in their vision.


Q: If I suspect someone needs an eye test, how can I organise one?


A: You can arrange a full eye test with your local optician. If mobility or transport is difficult, you could organise a domiciliary eye test.


Each local PCT has a list of providers who have a contract to provide domiciliary eye care in the area (these range from large national companies to small independent companies) and the patient chooses who they would like to be seen by.


Care homes may have a preferred provider, but residents can still choose their own provider, if they wish.


You can find out more about domiciliary eye tests and eligibility on the Vision Matters website: http://www.visionmatters.org.uk/smartweb/sight-tests/at-home


The Eye Health Alliance website is also a very good source of information on the need for sight tests and NHS eligibility:



Q: Are there additional effects on sight loss caused by dementia?


A: Regardless of an eye condition, or normal ageing of the eye, people with dementia may experience visuoperceptual difficulties that reduce their sight, in particular in relation to:

·        Colour perception

·        Figure: background contrast

·        Identifying depth and motion

·        Visual acuity

·        Recognising objects and faces.


Note that some forms of dementia have particular effects on sight, such as dementia with Lewy Bodies and Posterior Cortical Atrophy.


Practical support and making the most of vision


Q: What are the best ways to practically support people with dementia and sight loss?


A: The following steps can support independence and quality of life among people with dementia and sight loss.

·        Make sure the person is wearing the correct glasses for the task they are engaged in reading glasses for close tasks, distance glasses for everything else.

·        Label glasses so that everyone knows which is reading or distance.

·        Communicate with consent any sight problems someone may have and they way in which this care plan is carried out.

·        Create or incorporate sight loss and the adjustments someone needs into a care plan which is based on the individuals sight needs.

·        In buildings, provide good even lighting and try to eliminate shadows.

·        Remove ‘busy’ patterns (on walls, furniture or floors) that create visual clutter and remove shiny surfaces that cause glare.

·        Minimise visual and physical obstacles and. Changes in floor surfaces or patterns can exacerbate visuoperceptual difficulties.

·        Reduce slip and trip hazards – help people put things away and find them by using clear storage and / or labelling.

·        Use colours and contrasts to make different areas or items clear: a white plate on a white tablecloth can be difficult to find; white doors in white walls make it hard to find rooms or cupboards.

·        Make routes between different rooms or places clear – especially in shared housing; use clear signs that contrast with their surroundings.

·        Assistive technologies – from automatic lights to audio labels – can be helpful; OT's can advise and devices are available from RNIB and disability equipment suppliers.

·        Talk about what is happening: where the person with dementia and sight loss is and where they are going - describing the route while walking may reduce disorientation and increase independence.

·        At meal times, describe the food and drink, where it is on the table, who and what is beside or nearby.

·        People need to know where things are and that they are where they left them: leaving things as the person left them can support independence.

·        When you enter or leave the room where a person with sight loss and dementia is – tell them.

·        If administering, or supporting a person to take medication, explain what is happening and what the medicine is for.


Practical approaches to make activities accessible


Q: What are the best ways of ensuring stimulating activities remain accessible to people with dementia and sight loss?


A: Find out how activities that have been enjoyed can now be made accessible – here are some ideas about how to keep activities engaging and interesting.

·        Talking newspapers bring the news alive, audio books make reading possible; film and TV audio description is widely available; tactile or large print games are readily available; music choices can be made accessible with audio labels

·        Use scent, sound, touch and movement: such as snoozellen, massage, foot baths, food tasting, cookery, singing and dancing.

·        If visiting a venue, find or create audio descriptions

·        Make any activity on offer accessible by giving clear information about what is going on, encouragement and support to be involved.


A note on visual hallucinations


Q: Either sight loss or dementia may cause visual hallucinations, which can be distressing. What are the best ways to help reduce any distress?

A: A full diagnosis is essential in understanding the root of the visual hallucination. The following practical tips may also help to reduce feelings of distress:

·        Explain what is happening, offer support and reassurance, don’t argue

·        Focus the person’s attention elsewhere

·        Encourage eye movements

·        Create the opposite situation, e.g. if hallucinations occur in bright light, dim the lights

·        Reduce shadows and improve lighting.


Resources


Q: What other resources are available to help with dementia and sight loss?


The following list outlines a range of additional resources that can be explored.


Information and advice about dementia:

·        Alzheimer’s Society. Visit www.alzheimers.org.uk

·        Alzheimer’s Society book of activities, by Sally Knocker, 2003

·        Hallucinations in people with dementia www.alzheimers.org.uk/factsheet/520

·        Visuoperceptual difficulties in dementia www.alzheimers.org.uk/factsheet/527


Information and advice about sight loss:

·        RNIB. Visit www.rnib.org.uk for practical support, information and advice about how to help blind and partially sighted people live independent lives, as well as locating Resource Centres.

·        Local sight loss charities, find yours at: www.visionary.org.uk

·        Disability equipment centres, find yours at: www.assist-org.uk

·        Thomas Pocklington Trust. Visit www.pocklington-trust.org.uk for housing and lighting good practice guides

·        Macular Disease Society. Visit www.maculardisease.org for information about the most common cause of sight loss among older people in the UK.

Contacting the Group


The information outlined in this document was produced by the Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group, led by Alzheimer’s Society, RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Ove Arup & Partners Ltd, part of the VISION 2020 UK Group. Visit www.vision2020uk.org.uk to find out more.


Contacting Group Members


Alzheimer's Society


Clive Evers - Head of Professional Liaison

Telephone: 0207 423 3531

Email: CEvers@alzheimers.org.uk


RNIB


Pamela Lacy - Evidence & Service Impact - Older People's Officer

Telephone: 0117 934 1702

Email: pamela.lacy@rnib.org.uk


Thomas Pocklington Trust


Sarah Buchanan - Research & Development Manager

Telephone: 0208 995 0880

Email: sarahb@pocklington-trust.org.uk


Ove Arup & Partners Ltd


Pam Turpin - Senior Consultant

Telephone: 0113 237 8293

Email: Pam.Turpin@arup.com part of the VISION 20220 UK Group. Visit www.vision2020uk.org.uk to find out more.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Dementia and getting things wrong

People with nuerological illnesses like dementia etc, are at a distinct disadvantage to other people because our brains are in control of us and therefore things happen before we have had a chance to think clearly.

I know that over the last few years I have said things that were not intended, some of which could have been hurtful, and when this  happens it's very distressing for us and for those who care for us.

For some horrible reason something comes into our brain, and then we say it without being able at times to think clearly of what is coming out of our mouths, sometimes it's the wrong words, which put a different slant on what we are trying to get out.

Even a simple task like answering a question can cause an upset in a bad day, if we are not up to it or very tired, and yet in many cases it's the so called professionals,  who take things to heart instead of making allowances , for our mistakes, and trying to help us out of a difficult situation.
 Trying to work something out can cause us to get agitated, and thins only makes things sound even worse

  Life has changed so much since I was working and in many cases the world and this country are worse that it was just a few years ago.

This causes extra stress as we want to put out point over without sounding extremist, because no one can understand how things can get so out of control in just a few years.

Not to long ago charities would use people like us for news items, but now it's all left to high profile people, who have never lived with the illness, yet think that they can speak for us.

Perhaps we do not always speak for the charity, or perhaps they think that professionals can speak better than we do, because they do not make mistakes.





Friday, 20 February 2015

Dementia research: Drug firms despair of finding cure and withdraw funding after a catalogue of failures

and withdraw funding after a catalogue of failures

1 / 1
Recent research forecasts that over one million Britons will suffer from dementia by 2025
Getty Images

Alzheimer's will cause global economic crisis without breakthrough in treatment, experts warn

Drug companies are retreating from the search for a dementia cure after “repeated and costly failures” to develop a breakthrough drug, a major report has warned.
Scientific and financial challenges have meant that, between 1998 and 2012, there were 101 unsuccessful attempts to develop drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, with only three drugs gaining approval for treating symptoms of the disease, according to the study.
The report, compiled by the Dementia Forum of the World Innovation Summit for Health (Wish), warned that a “history of failures” has created “funding fatigue” among donors and “Big Pharma”. Major drug companies had halved the number of research programmes into central nervous system disorders, a category which includes dementia, between 2009 and 2014, the report said. Experts said that with no known cure and a huge increase in cases expected within a decade, “a massive step change in research funding” was needed.
Read more: Alzheimer’s costs could soar to £34.8 billion a year by 2026
Editorial: It is time for industry and state to pool resources
The number of people living with dementia worldwide is to reach 135 million by 2050, by which time the cost of care is anticipated to exceed $1 trillion (£652bn) in the US alone.
The Wish report warns that, without a major drug breakthrough, dementia will “move from a major health challenge to a global economic crisis”.
Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer's patient Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer's patient Dementia research has long suffered from chronic underinvestment compared with other major diseases such as cancer and HIV/Aids. Pharmaceutical giants including Pfizer and Eli Lilly have seen potential Alzheimer’s drugs fail in recent years, often at costs of hundreds of millions of dollars – and there have been no new treatments for dementia licensed in the UK for 12 years.

Any further retreat from the sector would threaten the ambition, set out a year ago, for the G8 nations to find a dementia cure or major new treatment by 2025.

The report was presented at Wish 2015, a gathering of health experts in Doha, Qatar. Wish is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation, the charitable organisation linked to the Gulf state’s ruling al-Thani family. Its executive chair is the former Labour health minister Lord Darzi. He said the social and economic burden of dementia was already clear.

“Yet the future costs to societies and economies will be enormous without significant intervention now,” he added.

Wish’s Dementia Forum is chaired by Ellis Rubinstein, president of the New York Academy of Sciences. His report states: “Experts speculate that the lack of funding [for dementia research] has created an environment of competition in academia and that repeated and costly failures in drug development have created funding fatigue in donors and pharmaceutical companies.

“They believe this has caused the field to become more conservative, and limited unconventional strategies and parallel drug discovery opportunities.”
The report sets out a range of potential new funding options for dementia research, including attracting private investment from industry and high net worth individuals. Social impact funds, in which governments or charities shoulder first losses from investments in order to “attract traditional return-for-investment focused investors, are also mooted.

Dr Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said there was a “perception” that Big Pharma now feared “diseases like Alzheimer’s are too tough to crack”.

“Yet there are good reasons to believe that this challenge can be met,” he said. “Until relatively recently dementia was poorly understood, but the tide is beginning to turn: scientists now have a much better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the diseases that cause dementia, and how they might be tackled.”

Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “With no known cure, limited treatments, and a projected prevalence of one million within the decade, we need a massive step change in research funding in order to develop new treatments.”

He said that public-private partnerships designed to share the risk of investment had potential for future funding of research.

One such initiative – the Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Programme (Neuro-MAP) – will allow charities to choose stalled drug projects sitting in pharmaceutical company libraries and push for clinical trials. The £30m fund, launched last year, is backed by a number of charities including Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

The UK government has sought to take a leading role in the global fight against dementia. London hosted the world’s first Dementia Summit in 2013, where the Prime Minister pledged to double the country’s research funding for dementia to £66m in 2015. In the UK, 850,000 people live with dementia.

Stop the Dementia Tax

After 5 hours I have managed to write this article, about something I find to be disgusting Over the last two weeks we have heard all...