European Alzheimer’s policy gets a boost

European Alzheimer’s Disease policy did indeed get a boost, or rather several, this month. The highlight was arguably last week’s Council Conclusions where all 28 EU Health Ministers agreed on a new level of cooperation to tackle the disease. This included the call to deliver appropriate care to people living with dementia, their families and caregivers, while ensuring the financial sustainability of healthcare systems. It was the culmination of the 6 month Luxembourg Council Presidency to the EU, during which Health Minister Lydia Mutsch drove an agenda that encourages Member States to make dementia a priority in national health policy plans.

From these policy developments to others throughout the year such as the European Parliament Declaration, the 10,000 plus people who signed up to Alzheimer’s Europe Glasgow Declaration including 82 MEPs, and this week’s’ OECD led workshop on ‘Connecting Research, Regulation and Access, one has to stop and ask: will it all be enough to prepare health systems in managing one of the most important health issues and societal challenges of our time? 

The OECD event this week is set to peel away more of the layers needed to address the challenge. Barriers to tackling Alzheimer’s Disease span scientific, operational, and regulatory issues over both the short and longer term. With a focus on developments in dementia prevention and access pathways, the OECD workshop aims to review both the “evidence and tools needed to support payer evaluation of future therapies and diagnostics”. Attendees are also going to be looking at how best to further drive innovative research and to explore new health economic models.

Here in the EU, 9 million people will be living with the disease by 2030. With such a staggering statistic facing Europe, dementia is now becoming a tangible public & social health priority. Yet still much needs to be accomplished to address some foundational infrastructure issues in Europe. Preparing each national health system here in Europe for the challenge and better caring for all patients involves first and foremost creating a health system infrastructure better geared towards timely diagnosis. It also includes the need to reduce the variability in patient care journeys and infrastructures across geographies.

In 2016, the Netherlands will host the Presidency to the EU starting in January, and dementia is one of their health priorities. The central milestone will be a two-day conference and expo on dementia, to be held on 9-10 May 2016. Under the title “Living well with(out) dementia”, there will be a gathering over 200 stakeholders in Amsterdam to explore the need to support innovation in healthcare and society in order to maintain the quality of life and autonomy of people living with dementia. And by then the new agenda of cooperation will be reinforced by the Second EU Joint Action on Dementia will be up and running, led by Scotland and involving 11 Member States. 

2016 also sees us here at Lilly mark our 28-year long commitment to Alzheimer’s Disease research and development. As such we hope to continue to both share our learnings with the broader Alzheimer’s disease community in an effort to advance science in this field, and in the policy debates that are hopefully set to underpin how Europe will come together to tackle dementia and its challenges.