The following letter was sent to the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Philpott by the CCNA’s Scientific Director, Dr. Howard Chertkow
RE: Canada Needs a Greater Investment in Dementia Research
As the Scientific Director of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA), I am writing to echo Senators Art Eggleton and Kelvin Ogilvie’s call for a national coordinated effort to stop the “rising tide” of dementia in Canada.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are one of the biggest public health challenges we face as Canadians. The number of people afflicted is already significant and is expected to multiply to 937,000 by 2031 from 564,000 today.
To achieve the kind of breakthroughs that large government investments have made possible for other public health conditions, sustained research through the CCNA is required. According to the Senate report, the CCNA’s 400+ researchers – working in 20 collaborative teams on all aspects of dementia research across Canada – require significantly more research funding, to a level that still reflects only 1% of the annual cost of health care for dementia patients.
The CCNA’s concerted efforts are already showing progress. The challenge is that – while we are confident there are effective pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions becoming available that will constitute breakthroughs – we lack the resources to test them in clinical trials. To deliver effective approaches to dementia prevention and treatment in the next 10 years, the CCNA needs to continue banding together as Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration, and we need a funding commitment from the federal government that recognizes the scope of what is required.
If Bill C-233 (a national dementia strategy) passes without a serious commitment of resources it will undermine what must be done. We, therefore, urge that a Dementia Breakthrough Fund be earmarked over the next 7 years to accompany the passage of Bill C-233. Essentially, Canada’s dementia researchers are seeking funding equivalent to the amount that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cost Canada every two days. We simply cannot achieve what is needed through a series of uncoordinated, small-scale efforts.
I ask you, Minister Philpott, and your government to act on the recommendation of the Senate without delay, and to support the goal of developing breakthroughs for the 564,000 Canadians living with dementia.
Howard Chertkow, MD
Scientific Director, CCNA; Professor of Neurology, McGill University