Press release

UK calls on world to tackle global crisis of dementia

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Today, for the first time, health leaders from the developed world have come together to map out how they will fight dementia.

Dementia will no longer be an accepted side effect of growing old.

At the first G8 summit on a specific illness since HIV, called by the UK as part of its G8 presidency, health and science leaders have today agreed a package of measures to tackle the growing global health, social and economic crisis of dementia. Currently 36 million people across the world have dementia and the World Health Organisation predicts that numbers will nearly double every two decades.

Speaking at the Summit, Prime Minister David Cameron said:

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in London or Los Angeles, in rural India or urban Japan – dementia steals lives, it wrecks families, it breaks hearts and that is why all of us here are so utterly determined to beat it.

In generations past, the world came together to take on the great killers. We stood against malaria, cancer, HIV and AIDS and we are just as resolute today. I want December 11th 2013 to go down as the day that the global fight-back began.

As a result of the first ever G8 summit on dementia, the countries have agreed to:

  • set an ambition to identify a cure or a disease-modifying therapy for dementia by 2025 – backed by a commitment to together significantly increase the amount spent on dementia research and increase the number of people involved in clinical trials and studies on dementia;

  • a new Global Envoy for Dementia Innovation, following in the footsteps of global envoys on HIV and Aids and on Climate Change – the Global Envoy will bring together international expertise to stimulate innovation and co-ordinate international efforts to attract new sources of finance, including exploring the possibility of a new private and philanthropic fund to support global dementia innovation;

  • develop an international action plan for research – in particular to identify current gaps and how to fill them;

  • share information and data from dementia research studies across the G8 countries to work together and get the best return on investment in research; and

  • encourage open access to all publicly-funded dementia research to make data and results available for further research as quickly as possible.

Greater investment in research, focussing research where there is more to learn and greater sharing of data will mean everyone understands more and can move towards better treatment and cures – in the same way that medicine has made great strides in tackling diseases like HIV and cancer. Simply increasing spending on dementia research will not be enough – that is why there will be an action plan on how the G8 countries will work together to fill the gaps and opportunities in dementia research with the ultimate aim of finding a cure or disease-modifying treatment by 2025.

The G8 is also supporting the UK in appointing a Global Dementia Innovation Envoy - the Global Envoy will ensure the international focus continues, driving innovation in care and treatments for people with dementia.

In his closing address to the summit, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will say:

Nelson Mandela once said that ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done’. 20 years ago, fear, ignorance and stigma surrounded HIV and AIDS – but we know from this that major diseases can be made manageable, even preventable, with sufficient political will.

Dementia costs an astounding US$604 billion every year, about one per cent of the world’s GDP. But this isn’t just an economic problem – the impact this disease has, not just on those diagnosed with dementia, but also on their families, their carers and their friends, cannot be measured.

Already, great strides are being made in understanding this disease and how we might prevent it. Today we have taken a major step forward in agreeing action to tackle this debilitating disease on a global scale – to push further, to be able to provide treatments and cures so that future generations can face a diagnosis of dementia with confidence, not fear. Let’s show future generations we were up to the challenge.

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General said:

WHO warmly welcomes the aims and outcomes of this summit, with its ground-breaking proposals to stimulate research and development to catch up with a runaway human tragedy.

WHO’s priority will be to help countries, especially in the developing world, cope with their rapidly ageing populations and escalating numbers of people with dementia.

Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, said:

We need to modernize the innovation model in health in order to accelerate innovation in dementia prevention and care. The OECD supports the UK government efforts to encourage multi-stakeholders international collaboration to address dementia and welcomes the UK decision to appoint a Global Dementia Innovation Envoy. We hope that through our combined efforts we will be able to better deal with the human, social and economic cost of dementia.

Next year, these countries will come together again throughout 2014 to build on the commitments agreed today. In March, the UK will hold an event on how to get greater investment and finance in innovative care. This will be followed by an event in Japan on what new care and prevention models could look like and an event hosted by Canada and France on industry partnerships between academia and industry. The G8 countries will then meet in the United States in February 2015 with other global experts, including WHO and OECD, to review the progress that has been made on this research agenda.

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5656/5010.

The G8 Dementia Summit Declaration and Communiqué can be found at dementiachallenge.dh.gov.uk. This website also has information on the Summit and all the action the UK is taking on dementia, including the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge, launched in March 2012, which commits to pushing further and faster to improve radically the quality of life for people living with dementia, their families and carers.

The G8 Dementia Summit was held at Lancaster House in London on Wednesday 11 December 2013 and was attended by:

  • UK: The Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP – Secretary of State for Health

  • UK: Norman Lamb – Minister of State for Care and Support

  • USA: Don Moulds – Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

  • Canada: The Honourable Rona Ambrose – Minister of Health

  • France: Madame Marisol Touraine – Minister of Health and Social Affairs

  • Germany: Daniel Bahr, MDB (FDP) – Federal Minster for Health

  • Italy: Dr. Giuseppe Ruocco, Director General for Prevention, Ministry of Health (on behalf of Minister Beatrice Lorenzin)

  • Japan: Ms Shinako Tsuchiya – Senior Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

  • Russia: Professor Veronika I. Skvortsova – M.D. – Minister of Health

The following people also attended the Summit:

  • WHO: Dr Margaret Chan, Director General

  • OECD: Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary-General

  • World Economic Forum: Robert Greenhill, Managing Director and Chief Business Officer.