‘We haven’t made enough effort to tackle this world of darkness’: David Cameron on accelerating Alzheimer's treatment

24 May 2023, 07:44 | Updated: 24 May 2023, 08:22

David Cameron has described new dementia drugs as a breakthrough.
David Cameron has described new dementia drugs as a breakthrough. Picture: LBC/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Former prime minister David Cameron has cautiously praised 'breakthrough' treatments for Alzheimer's, with hopes for a simple blood test 'within a year' that can pick up the early signs of the disease.

Mr Cameron, who has been president of Alzheimer's Research UK since 2017, has unveiled the charity's 10-year action plan to tackle the neurodegenerative disease.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, Mr Cameron was asked about developments on recent treatments. Nick asked him: "You wrote that you’re nervous of the word breakthrough – would you use the word breakthrough here?”

"I think it is a breakthrough," he responded.

Listen to the full interview with David Cameron on Global Player

David Cameron speaks about breakthroughs in dementia research

"I was talking to a top Alzheimer's specialist this morning and he said I think within a year we should have that blood test, where you can have a blood test to see if you’ve got the early signs of the build-ups of these plaques in your brain.

“And within perhaps 18 months, two years, these drugs that have been trialled - some of which are being licensed in the United States - either those drugs or other drugs like them will be available. So I think that’s very exciting."

Mr Cameron previously opened up to LBC about his mother's early diagnosis with Alzheimer's, and responding to Nick this morning about his mother's current condition, he said "she's doing fine" and "we’re all trying to help as best as we can”.

However, despite the ex-prime minister's personal relationship to the disease, his involvement in the charity pre-dated his mother's diagnosis.

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Nick Ferrari asked: “Noting that you came to this prior to the condition with your mum, and obviously you could have put your energies into any particular one charities, why the passion for this?”

"It was something I saw in my own constituency," Mr Cameron said. "As a local MP, you go around these care homes and nursing homes, and I just saw more and more of them getting bigger and bigger, extra wings being put on for people with dementia.

“And you have those heartbreaking scenes, when 60-year-old man goes to visit 80-year-old mother and the mother doesn’t recognise him and is in this world of darkness.

“I, as a young MP thought ‘well dementia, that’s aging isn’t it’, no it isn’t, it’s caused by diseases of the brain.

"Once you realise that and you think of how much effort we put into other diseases, you realise we haven’t made enough effort on these diseases. We're still way behind in terms of funding for dementia research."

Mr Cameron also revealed the long-term ambitions of the charity: "We are now looking towards having a cure, having something that stops these terrible diseases that destroy your brain, that can actually stop them.

"We've still got some way to go but what's exciting is the last two drugs that have been trialled."

He added: “We can now say there’s a real of prospect of you or I being able to go to the doctor, getting a proper diagnosis and then having a proper drug that can help stop these diseases in these tracks – not today, not tomorrow, but I think in the coming months and years."

“I’ll be satisfied when I can go to my GP and as well s having a blood test to see if you have any of those cancer biomarkers, I have a blood test to see whether I’ve got nay early signs of diseases that cause dementia and if that does happen, the doctor gives me a prescription”

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