Treatments of tomorrow: Preparing for breakthroughs in dementia

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By Dr Matthew Norton | Tuesday 13 September 2016

Today we launched our new report Treatments of tomorrow: Preparing for breakthroughs in dementia. In it, we call for an urgent plan for managing how new medicines reach patients.

There are currently no treatments that can change or slow the course of the diseases that cause dementia, but in recent years global efforts in this area have been spurred on by the G7’s aim of developing such treatments by 2025. The number of treatments in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, has nearly doubled in the past three years, and 12 potential therapies are now in the later stages of testing. Many of these aim to slow the underlying disease in people with mild symptoms.

These trials are still ongoing, but now is the time to lay the groundwork for new treatments. We need to ensure that our health system can cope if they prove successful.

The current pathway for new drug treatments is complex:

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Our report highlights potential challenges along the way that could delay the take-up of effective new dementia therapies – including demonstrating the effects of disease modifying treatments in the early stages of dementia, the affordability of new treatments and associated equipment and infrastructure, and concerns about the way a treatment’s potential impact on social care would be valued.

There are a number of actions that we believe should be taken now to pave the way for future scientific advances that could benefit people with dementia, including:

  • Better ‘horizon scanning’ to help forewarn the NHS about new treatments and diagnostic tools in development.
  • Early discussions about the possible impact of disease-modifying dementia treatments between regulators, NHS decision-makers, the pharmaceutical industry and charities.
  • Scope for drugs companies and the health service to agree early or conditional access to new disease-modifying treatments where appropriate, alongside ongoing ‘real world’ data collection to understand longer-term effects;
  • Ensuring that any changes to the system recommended by the government’s ongoing Accelerated Access Review are suitable for new dementia treatments.

If you’re interested in taking part in dementia research studies, you can sign up to Join Dementia Research, where you can register your interest in joining studies in your area.

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About the author

Dr Matthew Norton

Dr Matthew Norton joined Alzheimer's Research UK as Head of Policy and Public Affairs in 2013 and lead on policy development and stakeholder engagement up to 2018. He has a PhD in Social Policy and experience of supporting the design and running of bio-medical and clinical research for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Matthew has also worked as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and prior to joining Alzheimer’s Research UK worked in policy and research for Age UK.