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New UK govt group promises stronger dementia R&D

This article was originally published in Clinica

Executive Summary

The UK has established a ministerial group on dementia research, promising better-funded and co-ordinated R&D, stronger collaboration with industry and faster market access.

"The group will focus on increasing the volume, quality and impact of dementia research," said the Department of Health (DH). It promises to: ensure better use of existing funding opportunities; increase public support for dementia R&D; improve access to clinical trials; "ensure research translates to better treatment and care"; and strengthen collaborations, especially with the commercial sector.

The group's members will include representatives from industry, as well as from government and from dementia charities. It will be chaired by the care services minister, Phil Hope.

The initiative is part of the national dementia strategy, which was launched earlier this year amid growing concern at the rising demand for care in this area. An estimated 700,000 people have dementia in the UK, and this number is expected to exceed one million within the next 10 years.

Brain imaging access under the spotlight

Early diagnosis and intervention is central to improving the outcomes of dementia care, with significant implications for reducing the healthcare and overall economic burden of this condition, which is in the order of £17bn ($28.5bn) per year.

In recent years, the government has come in for criticism over the lack of progress in implementing existing guidelines aimed at improving detection rates, notably through better access to imaging.

Last year, the Alzheimer's Society renewed calls for dementia to be diagnosed earlier (www.clinica.co.uk, June 10 2008), arguing that up to two-thirds of patients in England were never diagnosed, and that, for those who were, an average three-year delay meant missing out on the benefits of early care.

In 2007, the National Audit Office criticised the low brain-imaging rates, in the face of a significant budget to improve access to these services. The UK was "significantly underusing" brain imaging as the recommended tool for formally diagnosing dementia, it concluded.

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