PharmExec Blog

UK Strengthens Drive to Tackle Dementia

The UK government pledged late last year that it would double funding for dementia research by 2025 (from £66m [US$112m] in 2015 to £122m [US$207m]), but today Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on the subject again in light of expert warnings that little progress is being made.

At the first legacy event of the G8 Dementia Summit, Cameron didn’t mince his words, calling dementia “one of the greatest enemies of humanity.” There is a need, he went on, “to tackle head-on the market failure perilously undermining dementia research and drug development”.

The event also saw the Medical Research Council unveil the UK Dementias Research Platform (UKDP), a £16m (US$27m) public-private partnership with input from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson and eight UK universities, which will be the world’s biggest study into dementia.

The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK has also launched the Defeat Dementia campaign, which includes the establishment of the UK Stem Cell Research Centre and a £20 million global clinical development fund.

Ana Nicholls, Healthcare Analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) welcomed Cameron’s commitment to the cause, but added that research is still high-risk and pointed to the several trial setbacks in the past couple of years.

Indeed, since 2012 we have seen the late-stage failure of Baxter’s Gammagardm, J&J and Pfizer’s iv bapineuzumab and Eli Lilly’s solanezumab. And last year Lilly voluntarily stopped a Phase II trial of its beta secretase 1 (BACE-1) inhibitor, LY2886721.

“Gathering data will be crucial for the next push,” she said, but added that UK’s centralized healthcare system is a benefit, pointing to initiatives such as the UK Biobank that have helped to recruit large numbers of volunteers prepared to pool their health and other data.

Dementia costs the UK around £24bn (US$40bn). Worldwide, 40 million people are living with the disease, and this number is set to double every 20 years.

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