G8 Governments Urged to Support Research into Dementia

By Petrina Smith
Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

[caption id="attachment_6041" align="alignright" width="200"]Co-directors Henry Brodaty and Perminder Sachdev Co-directors Henry Brodaty and Perminder Sachdev[/caption]
Co-Directors of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at UNSW Medicine have joined a group of international scientific and medical dementia experts  to urge governments to support research into dementia.
Professors Perminder Sachdev and Henry Brodaty, along with  111 experts from 36 countries have issued a statement today to the G8 dementia summit saying that effectively tackling known risk factors for dementia could perhaps prevent up to one-fifth of new cases by 2025.  The statement calls upon the governments of the G8 countries to make prevention of dementia one of their major health aims.
The experts call upon governments urgently to support more research into prevention and to adopt public health policies that arise from the outcomes of this research. They say that prevention is a powerful additional approach to the development of drugs for treating dementia. Drug development has so far cost around $40 billion without any benefit in
slowing disease progression.
With no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia, and with drugs only relieving symptoms, the statement proposes that a concerted effort be made to discover modifiable risk factors for dementia and to exploit those already identified.
Professor Perminder Sachdev says that “international collaboration on large-scale clinical trials is necessary to test whether modifying risk factors will lead to prevention of dementia. “Encouraging data have emerged from Denmark, Sweden, UK, Netherlands and China to suggest that dementia is already being pushed back in the very old, and people now in their 90s are healthier than they were a decade or two earlier. We need similar data in Australia,” said Professor Sachdev.
The Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing has been engaged in a cognitive and physical exercise trial, and is now planning an expansion of this to other modifiable risk factors to help reduce the prevalence of dementia at the population level. A lot of this can be achieved only through changes in policy. The statement to the G8 calls for increased focus on public health
policy that encourages middle-aged people to adopt a healthy lifestyle to ward off dementia in the same way it does for other diseases.
The estimate is that about half of Alzheimer disease cases world-wide might be attributed to known risk factors. Taking immediate action on the known risk factors would not only prevent a lot of human suffering but would also save huge sums of money.
“The world-wide costs of dementia in 2010 have been estimated to be $604 billion, most of it in G8 countries. If dementia were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy and as a business it would be the largest global enterprise,” says Professor Henry Brodaty.
“Dementia research continues to be grossly and disproportionately underfunded when its prevalence, disability burden and costs are factored in,” he said. “Australia has a unique opportunity as the incoming president of the G20 to extend the G8 initiative in dementia prevention. The Australian government which has already committed $200 million over five years for dementia research can lead the way in implementation of prevention and other research findings,” said Professor Brodaty.

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