Earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could improve early care of millions of dementia sufferers worldwide, cutting the overall costs of treatment, a major report has stated.
A report from global organisation Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) highlights evidence that early intervention can be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and so there is a strong health economic case for earlier diagnosis.
The ADI report, ‘The Benefits of Early Diagnosis and Intervention’, is based on the first comprehensive review of all of the evidence on this subject, carried out by a research team at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The number of people with dementia worldwide was estimated in 36 million in 201 and is forecast to nearly double every two decades. The ‘treatment gap’ between early symptoms and onset of treatment is the ADI report’s main concern.
The report states that:
• As many as three-quarters of people living with dementia have not been diagnosed or treated – ranging from 20–50% of dementia cases in wealthier countries to 10% in poorer countries.
• Following early diagnosis, drugs and psychological interventions can improve patients’ independence and quality of life, reducing hospital admissions and delaying the need for institutional care.
The report concludes that governments should “spend now to save later,” as earlier diagnosis could yield savings of up to $10,000 (US) per patient.
ADI recommends that every country should have a national dementia strategy that promotes early diagnosis and intervention. Suggested measures include creating networks of specialist diagnostic centres to confirm early-stage diagnosis and formulate care plans.
“There is no single way to close the treatment gap worldwide,” said Prof. Martin Prince, the main author of the report. “What is clear is that every country needs a national dementia strategy that promotes early diagnosis and a continuum of care thereafter. Primary care services, specialist diagnostic and treatment centres and community-based services all have a part to play, but to differing degrees depending upon resources.”
Based in London, ADI is an international federation of associations that support people with dementia and their families in 76 countries.
September 2011 is the first World Alzheimer’s Month.