In the UK – this post is mainly for UK readers – journalists and opinion leaders are currently falling over themselves reporting about a major breakthrough: an Alzheimer’s drug has been shown to slow the disease by around 36%. “After 20 years with no new Alzheimer’s disease drugs in the UK, we now have two potential new drugs in 12 just months,” wrote Dr Richard Oakley, associate director at the Alzheimer’s Society. And the Daily Mail headlined: “New drug which claims to slow mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s by 36% could spell ‘the beginning of the end’ for the degenerative brain disease”.
That’s excellent news!
Many people will have made a sigh of relief!
So, why does it make me angry?
Once we listen to the news more closely we learn that:
- the drug only works for patients who are diagnosed early;
- for an early diagnosis, we need a PET scan;
- the UK hardly has any PET scanners, in fact, we have the lowest number among developed countries;
- these scanners are very expensive;
- the costs for the new drug are as yet unknown but will also be high.
Collectively these facts mean that we have a major advance in healthcare that could help many patients. At the same time, we all know that this is mere theory and that the practice will be very different.
- Because the NHS has been run down and is on its knees.
- Because our government will again say that they have invested xy millions into this area.
- The statement might be true or not, but in any case, the funds will be far too little.
- The UK has become a country where some patients suffering from severe toothache currently resort to pulling out their own teeth at home with pairs of pliers.
- In the foreseeable future, the NHS will not be allocated the money to invest in sufficient numbers of PET scans (not to mention the funds to buy the new and expensive drug).
In other words, the UK celebrates yet another medical advance raising many people’s expectations, while everyone in the know is well aware of the fact that the UK public will not benefit from it.
Does that not make you angry too?