Global Action against Dementia
The Group of Eight (G8) nations have set a goal of finding a cure or effective treatment for dementia by 2025 and ministers said the world needed to fight the spread of the memory-robbing condition just as it fought AIDS.
At the first-ever G8 meeting on combating the disease on Wednesday hosted by the UK, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that discovering a cure or treatment for dementia is "within our grasp".
'This disease steals lives, it wrecks families, it breaks hearts and that is why all of us here are so utterly determined to beat it.'
Experts warn of a dementia time-bomb, with cases set to soar as the global population ages.
Health ministers from the G8 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US - agreed on a funding surge for research in a bid to hit the 2025 target, amid warnings that the escalating problem could bankrupt healthcare budgets if a cure is not found.
"No one here is in any doubt about the scale of the dementia crisis," Cameron told the meeting.
"A new case every four seconds; a global cost of $600bn a year and that is nothing to say of the human cost.
"This disease steals lives, it wrecks families, it breaks hearts and that is why all of us here are so utterly determined to beat it."
The currently incurable condition afflicts some 44 million people worldwide - most of them elderly. That number is projected to jump to 76 million by 2030.
Scientists are still struggling to understand the basic biology of the disease.
"In terms of a cure, or even a treatment that can modify the disease, we are empty-handed," World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan told ministers, campaigners, scientists and drug industry executives at the summit.
Ending that drug drought will require more investment by governments and the private sector. The G8 ministers pledged to increase spending "significantly" - with Britain promising to double its expenditure - but officials stopped short of giving
an overall funding figure.
British Health Minister Jeremy Hunt said there were lessons to be learnt from the fight against AIDS, where a 2005 G8 summit played a key role in pushing for better and more widely available drugs.
"We have turned the global tide in the battle against AIDS. Now we need to do it again. We will bankrupt our healthcare
systems if we don't," he said.
The health ministers also agreed to appoint a global envoy for dementia innovation, following a template used for HIV and
Sufferers of dementia, of which Alzheimer's disease is the most common form, often end up needing full-time care as it attacks their memory, reasoning and other brain functions