In the news: Our recent letter to the editor of The Times

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By Hilary Evans | Wednesday 17 July 2019

Yesterday, we read with empathic frustration the observation on dementia research progress at the end of The Times’ comment on research into hearing aids (Delaying Dementia, 16 July). It reads:

“More research into such treatments is desperately needed, particularly given the failure of biomedical research to make progress despite many billions of investment towards finding a cure. None of the drugs tried so far has worked. This year the fight against Alzheimer’s suffered yet another setback when the US drug company Biogen and its Japanese partner, Eisai, dropped trials on a much-hyped treatment for the disease. As things stand, only 5 per cent of dementia research worldwide focuses on care. Even a small rebalancing could make a big difference.”

In our response published today, we called for an increase in research funding for dementia in line with other serious diseases to see similar benefits in both care and treatment.

We need better treatments and more breakthroughs

Unfortunately, it has been 17 years since the last new drug for dementia was made available. We agree that people with dementia deserve more breakthroughs and better treatments.

We know that every drug trial that does not result in a viable treatment provides valuable learnings for future research.

However, it’s important to note that dementia research is not yet receiving the financial support needed to bring about life-changing treatments. Current funding levels do not account for the urgency required given the scale of the problem.

Increased research brings benefits for patients

This year, Alzheimer’s Research UK committed to spend a landmark £250m in dementia research over the next five years thanks to our incredible supporters.

But we know more support is needed.

In 2010, the government committed to doubling dementia research funding to £66m a year. In 2015, it committed to spend £300m over five years.

This progress is welcome but falls short when compared with research budgets into other major health conditions, like cancer at £269m in 2015/16. The value of investment is underlined in these other areas through leaps forward in treatment and care.

People living with cancer today are benefiting from long-term and sustained funding, which began to increase in the 1970s. This long-term investment has led to treatment breakthroughs and means more people are now surviving cancer than ever before.

In comparison, it’s not hard to see why no one has ever survived dementia, and why hundreds of thousands of people with dementia across the country are not yet benefitting from better treatments.

Our call to government

Alzheimer’s Research UK is calling on government to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers by committing to put just 1% of the annual cost of dementia towards research – an investment of £320m a year by 2025.

The next Prime Minister should commit to prioritising dementia research and pledge just 1% to make breakthroughs possible and help to bring an end to this crisis.

Lend your voice

You can help us by taking a few minutes today to send an email to the PM candidates asking for their support for dementia research.

Hilary Evans, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK

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About the author

Hilary Evans

Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level to find a cure for dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.

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