New Drugs for Dementia

dementia cost
Image source: Public Health England

This briefing outlines the challenges in developing new drugs to treat dementia, and provides an overview of UK and international research activities to accelerate progress in this field.

The key points in this POSTnote are:

  • Current drug treatments marginally alleviate symptoms. Psychosocial interventions provide valuable support but access to them is patchy.
  • The development of drugs that address the underlying diseases is challenging due to their complexity.
  • Investing in research and development on dementia drugs is financially risky for the pharmaceutical industry. Drug development is an expensive and slow process and there has been a high failure rate in developing drugs. as they fail to yield positive results during clinical trials.
  • Understanding dementia requires analysis of large amounts of data and therefore a collaborative approach. A robust regulatory and legal framework is needed for privacy, data access and data standardisation so that study outputs can be shared.
  • There are new UK and international initiatives working to accelerate research and support collaboration. There are over ten potential disease-modifying drugs in development that may be available in the next five years. Stakeholders call for continued funding to ensure that the value of current investment is realised.
  • The first disease-modifying drug will be expensive and will not treat all types of dementia. There is growing consensus that treatment needs to start as early as possible, potentially even before symptoms emerge. Clinical implementation will be practically and ethically complex.
  • A healthy and active lifestyle may reduce an individual risk of developing dementia. While further research is needed, improving public health could reduce the number of new cases in the long term.

Full report via Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

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