Alzheimer’s Research UK is calling on the NHS and the pharma industry to join its new taskforce to ensure people with dementia can access future treatments without unnecessary delay.

The charity says it has set the new taskforce on the back of analysis showing that the UK health system “will need to think differently to cope with the unique challenges presented by future dementia treatments”.

Twelve potentially disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia, are currently in the latter stages of clinical research.

However, modelling by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the London School of Economics found that the introduction of just five new treatments is likely to pose “a significant practical and financial challenge to the current health system”, given the “sheer number” of people who will have the condition.

Even at a price point that would be considered cost-effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the annual overall cost to the NHS of one of the hypothetical treatments is £420 million – a third of the total cost of all cardiovascular medicines, the charity noted.

The analysis also revealed that current approaches to assess the cost-effectiveness of potential new dementia treatments are unlikely to encapsulate their full value.

Dementia costs the UK economy £26 billion annually, with over 80 percent of this cost carried by social and informal care, but current cost appraisal methods do not take the full savings in those areas into account.

The modelling also underscores that earlier diagnosis will be vital to ensure future treatments can be effectively delivered to the right people at the right time. Diagnosis currently takes place after symptoms begin to appear, but the diseases that cause dementia can begin 15 to 20 years before then. Treating the condition earlier would result in fewer people living with dementia, and those with the condition would live with mild symptoms for longer, the charity stressed.

It says its Dementia Access Taskforce lends the opportunity to work collaboratively on securing smooth delivery of future dementia treatments in the NHS.

The charity is making eight recommendations for the taskforce to take forward as initial actions, including: considering innovative funding models to help cover the cost of future treatments; piloting specialist Brain Health Clinics; and working on improving understanding of what measures reflect the true value of Alzheimer’s treatments.

“With over 1 million people expected to be living with dementia in the UK by 2025, we have a duty to ensure that people with dementia and their families can benefit from innovations in new treatments in the coming years,” said Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“While our report highlights a number of challenges that could affect the roll-out of future dementia treatments in the NHS, we believe these challenges can be overcome if we act now and work together.”