US study showing system not ready for next dementia treatment is warning for UK

16 November 2017

The US healthcare system is not ready for potential breakthrough dementia treatments according to a new Rand Corporation study released yesterday.

The study, commissioned by US biotechnology company Biogen, looked at the capacity of the current system to integrate new treatments. Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, is warning that similar roadblocks could impact the introduction of future dementia in the UK.

The in-depth review of the US system found that it could take over two decades for a patient to move from screening and diagnosis to receiving a hypothetical new treatment, with the outcome that a new treatment could be “available but out of reach” for most patients. The number of specialist doctors, diagnostic equipment and infusion centres in the US fell behind the anticipated need to screen the 71 million Americans aged 55 and older and treat the estimated 2.4 million who may require intervention, according to the study.

Rand researchers estimate that 2.1 million people in the US could develop Alzheimer’s while waiting for access to treatment.

Dr Matt Norton, Director of Policy and Impact at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Although our health systems are inherently different, the UK should take note of the potential challenges outlined in this study to prepare our own health system for future dementia treatments. Through enhanced investment in research, continued collaboration and increased medical research sector support, we believe we can remove some of the barriers to providing the best treatments possible to patients.

“Critical to the swift delivery of new treatments is early discussion between drug companies and the NHS, to agree on the best ways to overcome potential hurdles in administering new treatments. We see the recently announced ‘Accelerated Access Pathway’ as a step in the right direction, but would like to see additional horizon scanning mechanisms put into place to facilitate effective discussions.

“We must see a focus on capacity building as the UK moves forward with Brexit discussions, particularly in enabling skilled scientists and specialist doctors to work in the UK, and maintaining international collaborations with research groups outside the country.

“At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we are committed to finding ways for people with dementia to access new treatments as quickly as possible, a move that is vital to our mission to bring about the first life-changing treatment for dementia.”