Better health care through state/industry partnership
20 June 2014
The announcement this week (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-commits-to-new-action-to-find-breakthrough-on-dementia)
of a joint UK Medical Research Council/industry partnership to tackle dementia – UK Dementias Research Platform – is not
only good news for that particular disorder but more generally for health care. The budget impact of inadequate treatment for dementia is huge. According to work by Professor Martin Knapp at the London School of Economics, the cost to the UK economy is £21 billion. Delaying the progression of dementia by even 3 years could reduce this cost burden significantly, possibly by up to £5 billion per year.
Traditionally, the government has been responsible for dealing with public health problems. Cases of dementia are not only attributed to genetic factors, but environmental/lifestyle causes are clearly implicated. On this basis, dementia is as much a public health issue as AIDS, diabetes or cardiovascular disease (CVD). In the case of CVD, the landmark initiative in North Karelia, Finland, in the 1970s showed the power of an integrated approach to reducing the impact of this disorder (https://www.who.int/chp/about/integrated_cd/index2.html).
When new therapies are part of the solution to a major chronic and debilitating illness, a partnership involving industry has to be the basis for improving the outlook for patients. The recent history in the development of effective and approvable treatments for dementia has been disappointing. The new initiative on dementia is to be welcomed as a policy model for improving health care. Other areas of medicine could equally benefit from this approach, not least focusing on the urgent need to develop new antibiotics.