The Korean government will allocate a budget worth 198.7 billion won for dementia research over the next nine years, in an effort to tackle the rapid increase in the number of cases of neurodegenerative diseases.
The government will allocate a budget worth 198.7 billion won ($167 million) for dementia research over the next nine years, in an effort to tackle the rapid increase in the number of cases of neurodegenerative diseases.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the dementia support measures were confirmed during a meeting of the national dementia management committee in Seoul, Tuesday.
One of the Moon Jae-in administration’s key policies has been to increase the state’s responsibility for taking care of dementia patients.
The ministry plans to focus its research on mid- to long-term dementia treatments, which include technologies to diagnose dementia in the early stages, prevent it and treat it as well as reducing the monetary burden on families and customized medical services.
The program will be funded for nine years from 2020 to 2028.
The government plans to fund the development of technologies and equipment enabling doctors to examine and treat dementia patients based on their blood and body fluids as well as bio signals.
It also aims to foster diagnostic medical procedures using radiopharmaceuticals as well as enhancing digital analysis equipment and testing techniques.
Currently, dementia medications only relieve symptoms or slow down the development of neurodegenerative diseases, but the government aims to develop medications that could tackle their fundamental cause.
According to the ministry, illnesses that generally affect the elderly have become a major concern for Korea as the country became an aged society in 2017 with more than 14 percent of the population older than 65. The country expects to become super-aged by 2026 with the elderly population exceeding one-fifth of the total.
There were close to 749,000 dementia patients in 2018 but that number is expected to more than quadruple by 2060, exceeding 3.32 million patients.
“Once we complete the dementia research project, we will be able to detect early signs of dementia and delay the onset of dementia through preventive treatments,” the ministry said in a statement.
Starting September 2017, the government has been expanding treatment and policies to reduce the financial burden for dementia patients and families, while providing long-term care services for severely affected patients at designated state-run hospitals.
In the past two years, it set up 256 dementia care centers that have been used by over 2.62 million people for consultations, individual case management and medical services.
Since October 2017, national health insurance has been covering most of the medical costs for patients with severe dementia.
In addition, an increase in support by the government has drastically reduced the cost of dementia checkups from 300,000 won to 150,000 won as well as the average medical costs for dementia patients from 480,000 won to 200,000 won. Some 40,000 patients have benefited from the support since late 2017.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip, left, talks about the government’s dementia support measures during a national dementia management committee meeting held at the Millennium Seoul Hilton, Tuesday.