Better dementia care and a future cure require action today, says OECD


13/03/2015 - The current policy approach to tackling dementia is socially and economically unsustainable, according to a new OECD report. Countries need to take action now to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their carers, prioritise public research on dementia, and improve the incentives for private investment in dementia innovation.


Addressing Dementia: The OECD Response says that the human and financial costs of this incurable disease are huge. Nearly 50 million people are living with dementia worldwide, costing societies over half a trillion US dollars each year, roughly equal to the GDP of Switzerland.


With people living longer, more people are becoming dependent on others for support in living with dementia. But a family carer or a friend looking after a person with dementia is 20% more likely to have mental health problems and more likely to be out of work. Counselling, respite care and flexible work arrangements needs to be strengthened. Low pay, poor working conditions and the poor image of long-term care work must be tackled if professional care is to improve.


Progress in developing a cure for dementia has stalled as the complexity of dementia means that the risk of failure is too high and the rewards for success uncertain, says the report.


More and better basic research to improve understanding of the disease, together with stronger collaboration and a suitably adapted regulatory process, can reduce the risks and increase private sector investment. Increased public funding, including a global research fund, and public-private shared funding mechanisms can also leverage more investment.


There are major opportunities in sharing research data on dementia and in strengthening cooperation across existing data resources, but there needs to be a major shift in the research culture and incentives for collaboration. The OECD is making progress in bringing together key global players in dementia research, helping advance understanding of the causes of dementia.


The OECD also recommends that countries:


  • continue to prioritise timely diagnosis;
  • implement models of  care that promote greater control and social interaction;
  • improve access to palliative care outside of hospital, so that more people with dementia can die with dignity in a place of their choosing;
  • address the important ethical questions surrounding the involvement of people with pre-symptomatic dementia in clinical trials; and
  • establish new models of consent that address privacy concerns.


Journalists can find the full report, as well as other recent OECD work on dementia, at


For further information, journalists are invited to contact Mark Pearson (+33 1 45 24 92 69), Dirk Pilat (+33 1 45 24 93 80), Francesca Colombo (+33 1 45 24 93 60) or Tim Muir (+33 1 45 24 90 98).


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