On Monday, the Alzheimer Association International Conference announced news of two potentially promising drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease from the pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly (donanemab) and TauRx (HMTM). After over two decades without any breakthroughs, announcements like these herald a new era for Alzheimer’s disease treatments.
The indications are that this new cohort of drugs do not simply tackle the symptoms, but the disease processes themselves. This is critically important, and while they are not a cure, they would appear to be a significant step forward in the treatment of early Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer Scotland’s goals are to prevent, care and ultimately find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and all forms of dementia. We’ve been campaigning for more than 40 years to improve the lives and treatment options for people living with dementia and these new innovations provide great hope for the future.
If we truly have a breakthrough and we start to see this deliver more frequent new drug developments, this hope can only be realised if we build on our existing health care system and begin to improve our level of preparedness to maximise the benefit of these new drugs. For example, we will need to introduce new diagnostic facilities such as scanners and the new forms of blood tests. This is why we have been working closely with the Scottish Government and key health boards to pilot and test new approaches to early detection and brain health which includes a brain health clinic model, that would be ideally placed to maximise this opportunity.
Prior to approval, we know that these drugs will face rigorous assessment and further scrutiny to ensure that the clinical benefit and safety has been proven. This will take time and we hope that this time can be used to be ready in order to ensure that if approved, people in Scotland can get quick and equal access to these treatments.
Whilst the new discoveries bring hope for the future, we are extremely aware that for the many people currently living with dementia and their families, this news might be difficult to hear. We recognise there are many thousands of people living with dementia in Scotland today that will not benefit from these drugs, and we will continue to ensure they receive the care and support they need to live well with dementia. We want to reassure the people we support that at Alzheimer Scotland, the core of our work is, and will always be, ‘care’.
We are very proud of our 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline where trained volunteers provide callers with much needed emotional support, information and signposting. Our Dementia Advisors and our Centres across Scotland can also offer advice and support. Our campaigning and influencing work is key to ensuring meaningful improvements, equality and changes across all of health and social care services, and society in general, for the benefit of people with dementia and their families and carers.
Of course, we do look to the future, and Alzheimer Scotland is committed to supporting high quality research taking place in Scotland through both the Scottish Dementia Research Consortium (SDRC) and through Join Dementia Research (JDR).
Research is crucial to making a difference for people living with dementia both now, and in the future. We are learning more than ever, not only about dementia as an illness and what is most important when it comes to care, support and quality of life, but also what can be done to help prevent dementia: in our aim to ultimately, finding a cure.
We are indebted to all of those who participate in dementia research. Without them, we would not be hearing news stories like we have heard over the last few days, and you can help too. I hope that these positive developments will encourage many more people, both with and without dementia, to sign up to participate in research through initiatives such as Join Dementia Research. You can also help by becoming a member of Alzheimer Scotland, or simply supporting our campaigns, volunteering on our helpline or in our centres. There is a way for everyone to support us as we help make sure no one faces dementia alone, so please just get in touch.