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A modern killer

Dementia is a devastating condition for which there is no cure available. Care is costly, financially and emotionally. The cost for health systems is likely to rise in ageing societies. The condition damages the brain, and leads to a decline in a person’s functional and cognitive capabilities.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, every four seconds someone somewhere develops dementia. Worldwide estimates suggest that as many as 36 million people live with dementia, with just over 40% of them in high-income countries. These numbers are set to triple to 115 million by 2050. Across OECD countries, about 5.5% of people aged over 60 live with dementia; the highest death rates for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are in Finland, US, Iceland and the Netherlands (see chart). Nearly half of all people aged 90 or more have dementia.

While OECD countries have made progress in reducing mortality and disability from major killers, such as heart disease and cancer, this has not been the case for dementia.

The OECD addresses dementia in three main ways: by exploring how to make public-private partnerships work to deliver needed medicines and diagnostics; by examining ways to harness the advances in life sciences and information technologies to accelerate innovation in the prevention and treatment of the disease; and by developing ways to improve support and care for those affected and their families.

For more, see www.oecd.org/health and www.oecd.org/sti/inno/pace-of-innovation-for-alzheimers-and-dementia-needs-to-accelerate-says-oecd.htm 

©OECD Observer No 297, Q4 2013