“Dementia will rob me of my life – let’s make sure this changes for future generations”

16 June 2021

More than 50,000 people have signed Alzheimer Research UK’s petition urging the government to double its funding for dementia research, which was today handed in to Number 10 Downing Street.

Campaigner, Olive Munro, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2015, has written to the Prime Minister to urge the government to honour their pledge to increase investment into life-changing dementia treatments.

In November 2019, the government made an election promise to double its investment in dementia research to over £160 million a year, yet there have been no further commitments made publicly and no strategy outlined for investing the money.

Together, the UK’s leading dementia research charity and its supporters are now calling on government to keep their promise.

There are almost one million people in the UK living with dementia today.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people with dementia. A quarter of people who have died from COVID-19 in England and Wales also had dementia. The virus has also threatened progress in research, with studies delayed and more than a third (35%) of dementia researchers saying they could leave research altogether because of COVID-19. It’s feared that this could mean the loss of a generation of dementia researchers and years of progress, ultimately delaying desperately needed treatments.

Investment in research can change this. The rapid development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 has shown what science can achieve with investment and political will.

Dementia research is more critical now than ever before

This week’s announcement by the US Food & Drugs Administration, which approved the use of aducanumab for people living with Alzheimer’s, marks the first approval in the USA of a drug for dementia for 20 years and the first with the potential to tackle the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease. While this was a landmark moment, the drug will not be suitable for everyone with dementia and life-changing treatments are still urgently needed.

Substantial research funding is needed if scientists are to harness the potential of new research discoveries and bring about further treatments that could transform lives.

As well as widespread support by members of the public and celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Julie Walters and Dame Harriet Walter, the petition was supported by almost 100 MPs across all major political parties.

Alzheimer’s Research UK supporter Olive Munro, who is living with vascular dementia, has written to the Prime Minister urging him to honour the government’s pledge.

Olive said:

“I have witnessed the heartbreak of dementia in my family as three aunts died with Alzheimer’s disease and a cousin is now living in a nursing home. Dementia reduced them to a fraction of themselves. So, when I was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2017 it was very upsetting.

“I am constantly aware of my diagnosis and worried about how things will get worse. I do not know what part of my brain will be affected and what I will lose next.

“I know that developments in dementia research are likely to come too late for me. This condition will rob me of my life. But the most important thing for me is that there is hope that treatments will be found to slow down and stop dementia so my grandchildren’s generation will not be affected. The government need to hear us and act on this petition.”

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Doubling investment in research would help to dramatically to speed up progress towards life-changing treatments for dementia, but critical progress is at risk if this funding is not delivered quickly. We are grateful to each and every person who took the time to sign our petition and those who wrote to their MPs to call for the government to honour their pledge.

“We are currently at a tipping point for research and substantial and stable funding will make all the difference in bringing about new life-changing treatments for the people who desperately need them. The UK is a vibrant place for dementia research, but to safeguard progress it’s now vital that the government meets the urgent need for investment across every stage of research. The government has an opportunity to redouble efforts and ensure the UK is a global leader in dementia research.”