Editorial: More care is needed, but so is a cure

 

Share

Yesterday's disclosure in this paper that the world's leading drug companies are giving up on the search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease, following the failure of several high-profile trials, is grim news for the millions who will, in time, succumb to the condition. It is estimated that 36 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2009, most suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and the number is set to grow to 115 million by 2050.

But it is not only sufferers who stand to lose, as the disease strips them of their dignity and personality. The human and financial cost is rising as populations age, imposing an ever-greater burden on the rest of us. Governments are starting to respond – with announcements by David Cameron in the UK, Barack Obama in the US and former President Nicolas Sarkozy in France of initiatives to improve management and treatment of the disease.

In Britain, we are especially poor at caring for people with Alzheimer's. Many sufferers end up in hospital because of the lack of support in the community. Some argue, rightly, that putting extra funds into improving care – increasing social work support, expanding day-centre provision – would deliver more benefit for patients than investing in drugs of limited benefit.

But we cannot avoid the fact that Alzheimer's, and other forms of dementia, are increasing rapidly as the population ages and, unless we find some means of curbing its growth, it may overwhelm our capacity to care for its victims. The search for new drugs must go on. But the drug industry, chastened by its recent failures, is switching focus to symptomatic treatments and abandoning the hunt for a "cure".

Alzheimer's takes 15 years to develop, and the cost and difficulty of researching treatments that must be started early in the disease's course to be effective is prohibitive. They cannot be supported by the drug industry alone. Public investment is required in basic science to deliver the breakthroughs from which the industry can deliver new treatments.

We spend 12 times more on cancer research than on researching dementia, yet dementia costs society twice as much. Cancer does not need less – but dementia must have more.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A new election forecast indicates Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats may hold the power in deciding who forms the next government  

General election latest: computer model predicts the Lib Dems might have even more of an influence than they do now

John Rentoul
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success  

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

DJ Taylor
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?