Patient recruitment into dementia research studies hits all time high

To mark International Clinical Trials Day and the start of Dementia Awareness Week, the NIHR Clinical Research Network has released figures which show recruitment into dementia studies has increased in the last 12 months by 13%, meaning more people than ever before are taking part into research which examines the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the dementias.

Dementia affects 820,000 people in the UK and it is estimated that 25 million of the UK population have a close friend or family member with dementia. As well as the huge personal cost, dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year.

Since the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia was published in March 2011, the NIHR Clinical Research Network has been leading on work to reach one of the key challenges raised; to increase participation in dementia research. The Network’s recently released figures show that they have achieved this as total patient recruitment in 2013/14 was 13,400, up 13% from the previous year.

The government and charities have increased funding for dementia research since the challenge, meaning more studies are being done than ever before. 79 new dementia studies opened in the NHS in the past 12 months taking the total opened during the year to 181.

Commenting on this increase, Piers Kotting, Research Delivery Director for Dementias and Neurodegeneration at the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said:

“One of the encouraging things about this is the range of studies in which people with dementia are participating. Looking at the highest recruiting studies demonstrates this. At the top of the list is a study to improve person-centred care for people with dementia in care homes. Next is a major brain-banking project sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Third is a study of the costs and benefits of memory clinics for early diagnosis of dementia and discontinuing the use of antipsychotic drugs, followed by a study to identify genes responsible for inherited forms of dementia. “

The Network’s figures show that clinical research studies are now being done across more NHS trusts than ever before, making it easier for people to participate in research wherever they live. There are now more than 200 NHS trusts undertaking dementia research compared with less than 70 five years ago.

Professor Ian McKeith, National Clinical Lead for Dementias and Neurodegeneration research at the NIHR Clinical Research Network, said:

“This is an exciting time for dementia research and the response of the NHS to the Prime Minister’s challenge is really encouraging. We are seeing better networking between Trusts at a local level which means more people using an NHS service have the opportunity to join studies including those running in neighbouring services. This means that people with dementia can benefit from a wider range of research options.

“A 13% increase in participation is fantastic news, and we will continue to work hard to further increase the opportunities for patients to participate in research. The recent reorganisation of the NIHR Clinical Research Network into 15 new local Networks has given further impetus to this networking of dementia research, and the initial response of these new local Networks to the dementia challenge has been encouraging.”