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Research for dementia 'too slow'

19th June 2014

Currently, 800,000 people in the UK have dementia and 44m worldwide. Progress in the fight to cure it has not been as fast as hoped.

Dementia brain activityThe global dementia envoy, Dr Dennis Gillings, said the pledge by G8 countries to develop a cure or treatment by 2025 was "impossible" without better incentives for investment.

He also called for faster and cheaper trials for new drugs.

Next event

The prime minister is speaking at a follow-up event to the G8 summit on dementia six months ago. Experts and health officials from other G8 countries are expected to attend.

He will commit to accelerating the progress on dementia drugs with financial backing.

Dr Gillings said he wanted the same global recognition and effort that was given to HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.

Commercial investment

Dr Gillings linked the lack of progress to a insufficient funding and the difficulty in research.

"We're looking to find the fault in the world's biggest supercomputer […] but we're doing it in the dark. It's an absolutely massive challenge."

He blamed the high risk and low level of reward as a deterrent for pharmaceutical investment.

For example, only three of the 104 dementia drugs assessed in clinical trials since 1998 have received regulatory approval.

Globally, research and development losses in dementia since 1998 have reached £29bn.

The future

The government has pledged £66m into dementia research by 2015. It has also announced the Medical Research Council's new UK Dementia Research Platform (UKDP) which aims to improve research into dementia.

The UKDP is a £16m public-private partnership that aims to enable earlier detection of dementia, improved treatment and,ultimately, prevention of the disease.

This project will be the world's biggest study into dementia involving 2m people in the UK.

In addition, Alzheimer's UK is set to be announcing a £100m research campaign.

Alzheimer's UK's chief executive, Jeremy Hughes, said: "We have seen the huge progress that has been delivered for cancer research because of a sustained boost in funding and now we need the same for people with dementia."

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