G8 Dementia Summit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for JanLundberg2.JPGToday's guest blog comes from Dr Jan Lundberg Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, and President, Lilly Research Laboratories (Lilly R&D)

Today marks an important milestone, as the G8 dementia summit convenes in London, in an attempt to address the current and future threat of a disease that ravages so many lives. Dementia affects over 35 million people directly worldwide, but the devastating impact of the disease spreads wide beyond its sufferers. Dementia also tears away at families and friends living in its shadows. For all those it impacts, an answer to solve or ease the burden cannot come quickly enough.

I know all too well the devastation caused by Alzheimer's Disease, the most common cause of dementia. My Mother devoted her life to bringing up her family, and was always there when I needed her. One day, she called me to ask me how to make pancakes, which was unusual because she had made pancakes for the family for 60 years. And then the realization dawned. Over time her condition deteriorated, and she became more and more detached. I don't want to have this disease myself, I don't want my friends to have it, I don't want my children to have it ... I don't want anyone to have it. But it is here, and something we must face and treat head on.

According to recent reports, globally 13% of people aged 60 or over require long-term care. Between 2010 and 2050, the total number of older people with care needs will nearly treble from 101 to 277 million.

Long-term care is mainly about care for people with dementia; around half of all older people who need personal care have dementia, and 80% of older people in nursing homes are living with dementia. The worldwide cost of dementia care is currently over US$600 billion, or around 1% of global GDP, and as populations grow and age, the pressure on services and budgets will only increase. Urgent action must be taken to address this catastrophe on our horizon.

The G8 dementia summit is a prime opportunity to create a comprehensive plan to remove barriers getting in the way of breakthroughs to making progress in stopping progression of this devastating disease. A particular barrier is in the current gaps in research and development.

At the summit I'll be asking on behalf of Lilly for the G8 Governments commitment to invest in dementia research for the long-term, to allow predictability and stability, in other words to allow the safety we know is required for scientists to truly innovate. We believe current government spending on dementia research is not proportionate to the scale of the ongoing and future problem. In the US, government spends $6bn per year on cancer research, compared with $480m on dementia research. Similarly, in the UK, the Government spends £590m per year on cancer research, compared with £50m on dementia research. Both cancer and dementia are devastating diseases, neither one more important than the other. However, we need each of the G8 Governments to help pledge to close that gap, and fund the basic and translational research that will lead to treatments and cures for this disease.

At the G8 dementia summit in London today, I will be taking part in discussions to address these barriers and highlight important existing research and developments. Our investment in research and development has been sustained at a high level over many years. 2013 marks the 25th year of Lilly's research and development in Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia, and we are proud of the steps we have taken in contributing to a better understanding of the disease. We are currently the only large pharmaceutical company conducting research in the UK along all the research and development value chain both preclinical and clinical.

In addition to improving the environment for research, opportunities should also be found to streamline regulatory processes for new dementia treatments. We would also like to see health technology assessment processes consider all the benefits new treatments may provide for healthcare systems and social care, as well as patients and their caregivers. Finally, further work is needed to ensure treatment pathways are developed to support the speedy access of new discoveries by those patients most likely to benefit from them.

Lilly is ready to take an active role in today's G8 discussions and the outputs from the dementia summit, and we look forward to collaborating to make life better for people around the globe.

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Also see Dr. Lundberg's Open Letter to the G8 dementia summit delegates HERE