A call to ac­tion to com­bat Alzheimer’s dis­ease

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A con­certed ef­fort by dif­fer­ent agen­cies around the world is re­quired to in­crease the early in­ter­ven­tion ef­forts of Alzheimer’s dis­ease (AD) and boost the re­search and de­vel­op­ment of drugs used to treat the con­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal ex­perts.

“For any chronic dis­ease, early pre­ven­tion is crit­i­cal. Both di­a­betes and AD can be found in early stages, which can at least de­lay the progress of the dis­ease,” said Dr Ken Thorpe, chair of the De­part­ment of Health Pol­icy and Man­age­ment at the Rollins School of Pub­lic Health in Emory Uni­ver­sity.

“We should bring to­gether academia and in­dus­try as well as the pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ment. They can share im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences as­so­ci­ated with the dis­ease. The fight against AD can­not be ac­com­plished by one party. It re­quires co­or­di­nated ef­forts.”

AD is the most com­mon form of de­men­tia. It is a pro­gres­sive dis­ease of the brain that is char­ac­ter­ized by im­pair­ment of mem­ory and af­fects rea­son­ing, plan­ning, lan­guage and per­cep­tion. It is mainly di­ag­nosed in peo­ple aged over 65.

While there is still no cure for the dis­ease, Pro­fes­sor Shao Lim­ing, di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Cen­ter for Drug Dis­cov­ery and De­vel­op­ment, said that early di­ag­no­sis and in­ter­ven­tion can keep the dis­ease un­der control and de­lay its ef­fects.

In 2006, there were 26.6 mil­lion peo­ple in the world suf­fer­ing from AD, which is pre­dicted to af­fect 1 in 85 peo­ple glob­ally by 2050. Ac­cord­ing to pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, there are around 9.3 mil­lion cases of de­men­tia and 5.7 mil­lion cases of AD in China. The China As­so­ci­a­tion for AD said only one in five de­men­tia pa­tients in China is cor­rectly di­ag­nosed.

Dr Thorpe, who is also the chair­man of the Part­ner­ship to Fight Chronic Dis­ease, pointed out that a global ef­fort can also help ad­dress the prob­lem of rising med­i­cal costs. Ex­perts es­ti­mate that the med­i­cal costs as­so­ci­ated with AD in China alone could hit $1 tril­lion in the com­ing three decades.

“Given the in­creas­ing med­i­cal and eco­nomic bur­dens, it is im­por­tant that we rec­og­nize the value of in­no­va­tive drugs, which in the long term will re­duce over­all med­i­cal costs by de­creas­ing hos­pi­tal stays and the pos­si­bil­ity of el­der pa­tients’ suf­fer­ing from mul­ti­ple chronic con­di­tions. When we eval­u­ate the value of in­no­va­tive drugs, we need to do it us­ing a com­pre­hen­sive and long-term ap­proach,” said Thorpe.

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