The World Alzheimer's Report 2011 'The Benefits of Early Diagnosis and Intervention', released September 13 by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), shows that there are interventions that are effective in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, some of which may be more effective when started earlier, and that there is a strong economic argument in favour of earlier diagnosis and timely intervention.
ADI commissioned a team of researchers led by Professor Martin Prince from King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, to undertake the first-ever, comprehensive, systematic review of all evidence on early diagnosis and early intervention for dementia.
Currently, the majority of people with dementia receive a diagnosis late in the course of the disease, if at all, resulting in a substantial 'treatment gap'. This greatly limits their access to valuable information, treatment, care, and support and compounds problems for all involved -- patients, families, carers, communities and health professionals.
Lead author Prof Prince said: 'There is no single way to close the treatment gap worldwide. 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.'
'Failure to diagnose Alzheimer's in a timely manner represents a tragic missed opportunity to improve the quality of life for millions of people,' said Dr. Daisy Acosta, Chairman of ADI. 'It only adds to an already massive global health, social, and fiscal challenge -- one we hope to see in the spotlight at next week's United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases.'
The new ADI report reveals the following:
'Over the past year, the research team has reviewed thousands of scientific studies detailing the impact of early diagnosis and treatment, and we have found evidence to suggest real benefits for patients and caregivers,' said Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of ADI.
'Earlier diagnosis can also transform the design and execution of clinical trials to test new treatments. But first we need to ensure that people have access to the effective interventions that are already proven and available, which means that health systems need to be prepared, trained and skilled to provide timely and accurate diagnoses, communicated sensitively, with appropriate support.'
To that end, ADI recommends that every country have a national Alzheimer's/dementia strategy that promotes early diagnosis and intervention. More specifically, governments must:
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