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The BBC's Panorama reports that there are challenges for the NHS in offering new dementia drugs Lecanemab and Donanemab. Accurate diagnosis is vital to determine who can benefit most from these Alzheimer's drugs. Two DPUK studies are assessing the feasibility of reliable diagnoses.

A BBC Panorama programme (broadcast 12th February 2024) has investigated how the arrival of two new drugs, Lecanemab and Donanemab could transform treatment for dementia, but poses challenges for the NHS across the UK.

These new drugs are showing for the first time that the progression of the disease can be slowed down. It is of huge interest to patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.

Licensing these drugs in Britain does not automatically mean they will be available on the NHS. Both drugs will have to be assessed to decide if they represent value for money.

The BBC reports that NHS England has estimated between 50,000 and 280,000 patients may be eligible for the new treatments at a cost of between £500m and £1bn per year. 

DPUK is currently looking at a major challenge facing the NHS: the early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease at-scale, and how this can support the delivery of these new drugs.

Professor John Gallacher, Director of Dementias Platform UK said:

“The DPUK collaborative feasibility study with industry, led by Dr Vanessa Raymont, will be assessing the benefit of testing Cerebral Spinal Fluid (obtained through a lumber puncture) and blood biomarkers. It is being set up at four of our Trials Delivery Framework sites. 

“In addition, our FAST study, led by Dr Ivan Koychev, is designed to assess the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of using blood samples collected in memory clinics for early diagnosis and how such testing could be scaled-up. 

“Both studies will provide valuable information to help the NHS decide the best way forward.”