Drugs to vaccinate everyone over the age of 50 against Alzheimer’s could be available within 10 years, but would cost the NHS £9 billion, a new report has shown.
The Telegraph reports that new analysis commissioned by Alzheimer’s Research UK found that drugs to halt, slow or reverse the disease could be available in as little as three years with major vaccine and screening programmes possible within a decade. But dementia experts warned that demand from patients would be ‘instant and huge’ and called on the NHS to act now to make sure funds were in place for when the breakthroughs occurred. Already 12 Alzheimer’s drugs are in late Phase III trials, the final hurdle before licensing.
Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “With over one million people expected to be living with dementia 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. “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.”
The charity commissioned experts at the London School of Economics to model the impact of five hypothetical Alzheimer’s treatments. Currently, there is no “disease modifying” treatment available that can alter the progress of Alzheimer’s. The most patients can hope for is something lessons the symptoms, and temporarily boosts thinking and memory skills.
But the 12 drugs coming through the pharma pipeline could provide a lifeline for patients. Most of the clinical trials involve drugs which target sticky clumps of beta-amyloid, which accumulate in the brain and stop neurons from communicating. Several vaccine-like treatments – which work more like a ‘statin for the brain’ than a traditional jab – are currently at an earlier stage of development, undergoing Phase I and II trials, said the experts.
The report estimates that a vaccine could prevent around 70 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases. Speaking at a news briefing in London, report co-author Professor Jonathan Schott, from University College London’s Dementia Research Centre, said: “The availability of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is a when and not an if. “Our patients are desperate for new treatments. When the media reports any hint of a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease our clinics are inundated. “When we have a successful trial, and I say when, this will be headline news around the world and the demand will be instant and huge.”
The researchers said there could come a time when all Britain’s 29.5 million over 50s were given vaccines and booster medication to ward of Alzheimer’s. Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It wouldn’t be an overnight scenario where everybody at 50 had a treatment like this, but that is where we’re going to, I hope, in the long term.”
The report said effective vaccine delaying onset of the disease for at least three years would be expected to wipe £12.7 billion off the total £26 billion per year that dementia costs the UK economy. Care Minister Caroline Dinenage added: “This report shows the scale of the challenge dementia presents not only to individuals but to wider society – something the government has never shied away from.”
(Story source: The Telegraph)