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Responsible responses to dementia:

After months of hype in the gullible lay press, we have a sober, well-informed, well-balanced editorial in the BMJ which makes clear that claims for the potential of new anti-dementia medication are not well-founded: New treatments for Alzheimer’s disease | The BMJ

Indeed, these are toxic compounds with arguable, if any, benefits.

Further, the Journal points to the importance of potentially reversible factors in the genesis of ill-health and early death: Death risk varies with social deprivation, employment, and ethnicity, data show | The BMJ

And in the short section on Dementia in ‘Seven Days in Medicine’, there are pointers to where resources can be spent to good effect: Seven days in medicine: 30 Aug to 5 Sep 2023 | The BMJ

Looking for a miracle cure through medication for dementia has wasted time, money and lives over the past 40 years in the belief that an intervention which will bring vast profits to companies and individuals can be found. It will not happen. Donanemab is the latest monoclonal antibody for which great claims have been made. It is believed it will be approved for marketing by the US Food and Drug administration – but this is no guarantee that it is safe or effective in any meaningful measure. People are desperate for cure, prevention of a quick fix. It is quite awful that this hope is recurrently exploited by organisations with scant regard for ethics but greed for publicity, kudos and more money for grants.

As communities and with the involvement of responsible governments, we can make changes which will reduce inequalities and which will improve the health of poorer people – reducing their burden of many pathologies, including dementia. This is known and could be implemented.

It requires a shared and humble understanding of the facts and a determination to take the necessary quiet but effective action.

Professor Rob Howard and his co-authors – and a good many more wise people are pointing the way.


Each week we post a blog from David Jolley where he shares his personal views on relevant subjects.

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