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Addressing Dementia

The OECD Response

image of Addressing Dementia

The large and growing human and financial cost of dementia provides an imperative for policy action. It is already the second largest cause of disability for the over-70s and it costs $645bn per year globally, and ageing populations mean that these costs will grow.

There is no cure or effective treatment for dementia, and too often people do not get appropriate health and care services, leading to a poor quality of life. Our failure to tackle these issues provides a compelling illustration of some of today’s most pressing policy challenges. We need to rethink our research an innovation model, since progress on dementia has stalled and investment is just a fraction of what it is for other diseases of similar importance and profile. But even then a cure will be decades away, so we need better policies to improve the lives of people living with dementia now. Communities need to adjust to become more accommodating of people with dementia and families who provide informal care must be better supported. Formal care services and care institutions need to promote dignity and independence, while coordination of health and care services must be improved. But there is hope: if we can harness big data we may be able to address the gaps in our knowledge around treatment and care.

 

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Towards a cure for dementia

Finding a cure and a preventive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias must be the long-term goal of global dementia research policy. This would transform the lives of millions of people by relieving them of the burden of disability and save the billions of dollars every year that dependency costs. But working towards an effective therapy requires that we rethink the systems and incentives that drive biomedical research and health innovation. Under our current model, progress in dementia research and drug development has stalled and investment is just a fraction of what it is for other diseases of similar importance and profile. Areas where progress should be made include: greater patient and public engagement in the innovation process; increased collaboration and stronger public-private partnerships; a more convergent and synchronised regulatory environment; flexible and adaptive clinical trial designs; greater use of open science and data; enhanced public research funding and increased risk sharing as well as respect for access to medicines and payers’ perspectives. While finding a cure is paramount, policy makers should also strengthen the focus on risk reduction and foster the development of better symptomatic treatments. Finally, better data on the public resources devoted to research and health innovation on dementia are required.

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