drugsThe number of prescriptions dispensed in England for approved medicines to treat Alzheimer's disease increased from 502,000 in 2004 to 3 million in 2014, new figures have revealed.

Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre as part of its ‘Focus on Dementia’ report also found that the cost to the NHS of prescriptions for Alzheimer's disease medicines dispensed in primary care stood at £45.7 million in 2014. While this was up from £42.8 million in 2004, it was significantly down from the high point it reached in 2011 of £110.8 million.

The report also found that the proportion of people who had a diagnosis of dementia in their GP record rose from 643 per 100,000 people in April 2014 to 755 people per 100,000 in December 2015. 

In addition, 39% of carers who looked after someone with dementia spent 100 or more hours each week doing so in 2014/15. More than half (51%) of carers had been in this role for more than five years.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that the reasons behind the increase in prescriptions were likely to be down to a drive to improve diagnosis rates and a rapidly ageing population. 

“This report shows that progress is being made in diagnosing people with dementia but also highlights the urgent need for more research into prevention and better treatments,” she added. “Dementia costs the UK economy £23.6 billion every year and the human cost is even higher. While existing dementia treatments can help with some of the symptoms, we still lack treatments capable of stopping the damage caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“There are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and the condition is now the biggest killer of women. Dementia affects the lives of people diagnosed and those close to them causing social isolation, financial strain and impacting both psychological and physical health. With one person developing dementia every three minutes this year, the need for research to defeat the condition has never been more vital.”