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Press releases

Meeting the Global Challenge of Dementia

Fiona Carragher | Alzheimer’s Society

3 min read Partner content

It was a pleasure to speak at the Institute of Biomedical Science 2023 Congress about the global challenge of dementia.

I am a scientist who spent over 25 years in the NHS where I saw transformations of outcomes for people with cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

In the UK, dementia is our biggest killer – but the investment is nowhere near enough to meet the challenge.

The scale of the challenge

Let’s think about the scale of dementia – over 900,000 people are living with dementia in the UK and many more people are carers.

It is estimated that globally 55 million people are living with dementia and by 2050 that will grow to 139 million.

It is caused by devastating, terminal diseases of the brain and is one of the biggest medical challenges facing the planet.

At the Congress I spoke about the key issues in dementia.

Diagnosis

Top of the list was diagnosis.

Did you know that our national target for dementia is 66.7% and we are not meeting that target?

Without a diagnosis, people cannot access vital care, treatment, and support.

Without a timely and accurate diagnosis people will be unable to access new disease-modifying treatments (should they be approved). These treatments, which have hit headlines around the world in the past 12 months, are the first to show they can slow Alzheimer’s disease and have offered real hope that this could be the beginning of the end for dementia.

These treatments are thought to be most effective when given early in disease progression and are only for people with Alzheimer's disease. Right now, we don’t diagnose early enough and, of those who get a diagnosis, we don’t always tell them exactly which type of dementia they have.

New simpler, cheaper, diagnostic tools are needed.

We have a far better chance of stopping or slowing disease progression by intervening earlier.

Biomarkers

Biomarkers are pivotal. Over recent years our knowledge of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in blood, has transformed how we think about diagnosis in the future.

Alzheimer’s Society is playing our part in tackling the diagnosis challenge. Earlier this year Alzheimer’s Society, in partnership with Alzheimer's Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research, won a £5m award from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund to transform dementia diagnosis.

Over the next 5 years this partnership will aim to get a blood test for dementia out of the lab and into NHS settings.

It is a bold, innovative project which could revolutionise dementia diagnosis and make a fairer, better future for everyone affected by dementia.

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