EU must do more to tackle Alzheimer’s

Labour Euro MP Stephen Hughes has backed a call for the EU to put more effort into the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

A formal resolution adopted by the European Parliament this week puts pressure on the EU Commission and government ministers to do more to fund and support research into prevention of a condition that cost European governments over £1bn in 2009.

MEPs also called for more to be done to support the unsung heroes who care for Alzheimer’s patients. These will often be family members who, day in, day out, provide the love, care and assistance needed to help their loved ones get through daily life.

Stephen Hughes welcomed the strong vote by MEPs, but said it needs to be followed up by action: “This is one of the most pressing long-term challenges facing our health and care services, so action must be taken. Whilst this report is very important, we know that the power lies with the governments who take decisions on where to prioritise research spending and investment.”

“Yes we need to do all we can to find effective treatment, but we should also be looking at prevention, including whether lifestyle choices, such as changing the food we eat, could reduce the risk of developing the disease.

“The European Parliament has also made it clear that far more should be done to help the people who care for Alzheimer’s patients. In most cases we’re not talking about medical professionals but about wives, husbands, sons and daughters.

“It can be hard, gruelling work and these people should be recognised for their efforts and supported, with respite care available to ensure they can take breaks and look after their own physical and mental well being.”

More information on the position adopted by the European Parliament:-


Call to act on Alzheimer’s disease

Public health

Plenary session

The EU should step up co-operation and support to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for patients with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, said Parliament on Wednesday.

"The incidence of Alzheimer's disease doubles every 20 years, but European responses are too often absent or very weak. The situation of patients, their families and carers is very imbalanced across Europe. It is therefore a priority to strengthen efforts towards early diagnosis and prevention, research, and proper health services", commented Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL, PT), who drafted the non-legislative report.

An estimated that 10 million Europeans suffer from dementia, with Alzheimer's accounting for the vast majority of cases. Women make up a disproportionately high share of both sufferers and carers.

MEPs call for dementia to be made an EU health priority and urge Member States to develop dedicated national plans and strategies (only seven EU countries currently have national strategies in place). These strategies should address the social and health consequences, as well as services and support for sufferers and their families.

The report welcomes the fact that the EU is already investing €159 million in neurodegenerative disease research projects. However, MEPs also say funding arrangements for the next funding period should address the fragmented nature of research. They highlight the need to raise awareness of the issues and propose a European Year of Mental Health.

The Matias report was approved with 646 votes in favour, 6 against and 6 abstentions.