Reflecting on the Opportunities and Challenges in the New Era of Treatment

We end 2023 on a moment of hope for our field. For the first time in over 100 years, since Alzheimer’s was first recognised as a disease, patients, at least in the United States are able to access diseased modifying therapies. At the same time, new draft diagnosis criteria, proposed this year at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), aims to much more accurately diagnose dementia. And both in-home and out-of-home care is improving, beyond just a generation ago.

Despite this reason for hope, we’re all too aware the realization of this progress is uneven, both across and within countries. Indeed, the gap between high income countries and low- and middle-income countries is already stark. And, as this new era in Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment and care advances, ensuring equity in access to these disease modifying treatments, quality care, and access to timely and accurate diagnosis is essential. It is why the work of the World Dementia Council, international governments, and the dementia field over the last year and in the years to come is critical.

The challenges of this moment were top of mind during World Dementia Council events this year. First, in May at the G7 health ministers meeting in Nagasaki, our side-event focused on dementia saw inter-governmental officials and dementia experts discuss this mix of optimism and frustration. The discussion recognized the progress made, but attendees also acknowledged the scale of the challenge. Among the most pressing challenges analysed during the meeting were: how to diagnose, how to measure clinical meaningfulness, how to fund treatments, and how to ensure access and equity, within countries and around the world.

These themes were further explored in the Hague during a high-level conference co-hosted by the Netherlands government and the World Dementia Council. Experts considered how despite the hope offered by treatments, we still confront the challenges of stigma, of ensuring people can live well in the community and of providing equitable, high-quality care. Looking to the next decade of progress, the field, speakers explored how best to ensure people living with dementia see the benefits of our progress, in high income countries and in low-and-middle income countries. 

These are all issues the World Dementia Council will continue to analyse and seek solutions to in 2024 and beyond. Join our work in the year ahead through our comprehensive programme of dementia dialogues on diagnosis and treatments, dementia in the context of an ageing society. And we will again host the World Dementia Council Summit in London at the Francis Crick Institute exploring many of the challenges our field faces together will dementia leaders from different fields from around the world. We look forward to seeing you over the coming year and wish you an enjoyable holiday season.

Professor Philip Scheltens & Dr Joanne Pike, chair and vice chair of WDC