Alzheimer’s Set to Move From the Most Daunting Global Health Crisis to the 21st Century’s Fiscal Nightmare

OECD and the Global Coalition on Aging Convene at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University to Shape New Approaches for Solutions

Oxford, UK (26 June 2013) – The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Harris Manchester College, Oxford University and Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) concluded on Friday 21 June, an “Expert Consultation on Unlocking Global Collaboration to Accelerate Innovation for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.” Aimed at providing input to the OECD action agenda for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the Consultation brought together the highest level of global experts across health, economics, public policy, business, biotechnology, and beyond.

Its timing is aligned with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent recognition that dementia is fast becoming the biggest pressure on care systems around the world.  “That’s why we’re using our G8 to bring together health ministers, clinical researchers and healthcare companies,” he said.  “If the brightest minds are working together on this then we’ve got a greater chance of improving treatments and finding scientific breakthroughs.  I’ve said before that we need an all-out fight-back against dementia that cuts across society. Now we need to cut across borders and spearhead an international approach that could really make a difference.”

The objectives of the Consultation included:

  • Providing a space for country experts and  policy makers, and  scientific, medical and academic experts to share views on the main scientific, technological and policy challenges Alzheimer’s and dementia raise in the context of creating a pathway for aging populations to be sources of economic growth in the 21st century; and
  • Creating an opportunity for multidisciplinary exchange on a collective action plan that maps the way forward.

“The impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia on individuals, families, health systems and national economies as populations age will become truly crippling, and no one nation or research organization can solve this global epidemic alone.” said Michael Hodin, Executive Director of GCOA.  “It requires global understanding, sharing and collaboration, and this Consultation was a critical step in our ongoing fight against Alzheimer’s – a fight we must win if we are truly to unlock our aging populations as new sources of economic growth.”

Alzheimer’s afflicts one in eight over 65 and one-half of all those over 85, and the economic, social and personal costs will only increase with age-related demographic change.  In 2010, the global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementias equalled 1 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), or $604 billion.  The prevalence and cost, combined with the stigma, which prevents recognition of symptoms and subsequent treatments, signal an urgent call to action.

“Traditional strategies around healthcare services and investments in research are not enough to address the growing worldwide onslaught of Alzheimer’s and dementias,” said Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Disease International.

“The global scale of the pending healthcare-economic crisis mandates a bold forward looking action plan to harmonize a multi-nation attack on the problem,” noted  Zaven Khachaturian, recognized at the meeting as the ‘Chief Architect’ of Alzheimer & Brain Aging research in the United States, now the President of the Campaign to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by 2020. He indicated the urgent need for a “multinational strategic goal for reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other chronic brain disorders, by 50% within a decade” – thus urging the OECD to “identify the framework conditions to accelerate multi-national collaborative R & D.”

George Vradenburg, Chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s and convener of the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s called for new attention, resources, commitment and collaboration to defeat Alzheimer’s disease.  In his keynote speech, coined “The Oxford Accord,” he called for G8 leadership equivalent to the G8 Summit that created the HIV/AIDS Global Fund.

Consultation experts presented their views for proactive public policy and an OECD role in supporting actions to : promote broad-based partnerships; identify incentives, frameworks and infrastructures for enhanced international data sharing; leverage big data as strategies to advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, improve care, promote global exchange of good practice and move toward cure and even prevention.

The Consultation was borne out of the September 2012 OECD workshop, “Anticipating the Special Needs of the 21st Century Silver Economy: From Smart Technologies to Services Innovation,” co-hosted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, OECD and Waseda University, with the support of the Japanese government.  The workshop concluded that innovation was needed to meet the challenges and opportunities of global demographic change and mitigate the health, social and economic impacts of aging.

The Consultation was held on 20-21 June, 2013 at The Harris Manchester College (HMC), Oxford University in collaboration with the Global Coalition on Aging and Oxford’s HMC.

For more information see OECD’s website:  oe.cd/innovating-against-alzheimers

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