New statistics have been released by Alzheimer's Disease International which reveal that 44 million people now have dementia worldwide, a figure that is expected to hit 76 million by 2030 and 135 million 20 years later.
The charity has issued a policy brief ahead of the G8 Dementia Summit in London on December 11, noting a "staggering 17% increase" in global estimates of people living with the disease compared to estimates in the 2009 World Alzheimer’s Report.
Although high income countries like all those in G8 "have borne the brunt of the dementia epidemic, the disease is a global phenomenon", ADI notes, but that will shift; 71% of suffers in lower and middle-income countries by 2050. Martin Prince from King’s College London, and author of the policy brief, said "this is a global problem that is, increasingly, impacting on developing countries with limited resources and little time to develop comprehensive systems of social protection, health and social care".
He added that "while we all hope for advances in treatment that could blunt the impact of the coming epidemic, we need to agree now to work together to close the diagnosis and treatment gap. Nobody should be left without access to support and care.”
The ADI report argues that "most governments are woefully unprepared" with only 13 countries implementing a national dementia plan. All governments should initiate a national dialogue regarding future provision and financing of long term care, it recommends.
Copmmenting on the report, the Alzheimer's Society noted that in the UK, dementia is the most feared health condition in over 55s and costs the economy £23 billion a year, "more than cancer, stroke or heart disease combined". The government has committed to spend £66 million on dementia research by 2015, "but this is still one-eighth of what is spent on cancer research in the UK".
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at the AS, said "lack of funding means dementia research is falling behind other conditions. The G8 is our once in a generation chance to conquer this condition and we must see meaningful action after the talking is over".
Amlodipine trial, solanezumab hopes
UPDATED: Ana Nicholls, healthcare analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, noted that “fortunately, the warning comes at a time when scientists are more hopeful about finding treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's".
Earlier this week, the AS and the British Heart Foundation announced a £2.25 million clinical trial to be carried out at Queen's University Belfast to test the blood pressure drug amlodipine in people with vascular dementia. Also Ms Nicholls noted that Eli Lilly is pushing ahead with trials for solanezumab, which may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer's, and "after several years when pharma companies were reining back spending on research in this area, because results were disappointing, this is encouraging news".
However she noted that "even if treatments do improve however, it may be years until they become cheap enough for low- and middle-income countries to afford on a wide scale.”