UK faces looming dementia crisis without diagnostic overhaul

A report warns that over half a million individuals with dementia could slip through the diagnostic net in the UK by 2040 unless significant changes are made to detection methods, as reported by The Telegraph

With regulators evaluating drugs to slow Alzheimer’s progression, the NHS gears up for potential rollouts. However, the efficacy of drugs like lecanemab and donanemab hinges on enhanced diagnostic capabilities, requiring extensive testing such as MRI scans and lumbar punctures.

Presently, only two-thirds of cases are diagnosed, falling short of previous targets. The report underscores the urgent need for increased diagnostic capacity and readiness for new treatments, urging governments across the UK to prioritise investment in dementia care.

As the population ages, the incidence of dementia is expected to surge, necessitating proactive measures to ensure patients receive timely diagnosis and access to emerging therapies. Alex Osborne, Alzheimer’s Society policy manager, said:

“We urgently need to see government investment so people receive an early, accurate dementia diagnosis and can access vital care, support and treatment.

We are soon due to hear whether the first disease-modifying treatments which could slow down progression of Alzheimer’s disease will be approved for use in the UK, and people need to know what type of dementia they have in order to confirm if they are eligible.”

An NHS spokesman said that the pandemic had a “significant impact” on the dementia diagnosis rate. They continued:

“…but thanks to NHS staff, who have worked hard to recover services, diagnosis rates have risen significantly over the last year and are now higher than most developed high-income countries.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said:

“We are working to diagnose more people and provide potential new treatments as they become available.

This includes co-funding research into quick blood tests which have the potential to catch this condition sooner in thousands of patients. We are also doubling funding for wider dementia research to £160 million a year by the end of 2024/25.”

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