A dozen Alzheimer’s drugs that can halt, slow or reverse the disease could be available to patients in three years, a report has revealed.
All of the 12 treatments are in late stage Phase III trials, the final hurdle before a new medicine is licensed.
If any of them live up to expectations, demand from patients will be “instant and huge”, according to one leading UK dementia consultant.
And the sudden appearance of advanced, effective and costly Alzheimer’s drugs could land like a financial bombshell on the NHS.
The report from dementia charity Alzheimer’s Research UK warns that the government and NHS must be ready to cope with the cost of new Alzheimer’s treatments – and associated diagnostic procedures – that could run into billions.
Further down the line, experts hope to see vaccine-like preventative Alzheimer’s drugs introduced within the next decade that could be given to every 50-year-old in the UK.
On its own, such an approach would cost around £9 billion per year – but could slash almost £13bn off the overall cost of dementia to health services and the economy.
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.
But the report, entitled Thinking Differently, also highlighted progress in the real world, with 12 disease-modifying drugs due to be completing Phase III trials by 2021.
If they achieve their therapeutic goals, the new medicines will be generally available in as little as three years. 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.”