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Dementia healthcare needs a revolutionary rethink

Oct 2017: A team led by Professor Craig Ritchie, Dr Tom Russ and others has concluded that clinical services for people at high risk of dementia need a radical rethink in line with the latest scientific understanding of the condition.

Their report - The Edinburgh Consensus, published in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy – relates to the search for a new generation of disease-modifying drugs that are aimed at tackling the early underlying biological causes of dementia.  It highlights a crucial need for new strategies to diagnose and treat the condition in light of significant challenges that health services will face in future.

Disease-modifying drugs are based on evidence that Alzheimer’s disease has its roots in middle age, with changes in the brain occurring many years before the final symptoms of dementia develop. This offers a window during which treatment could limit brain damage before the development of dementia. Delaying the emergence of these symptoms by a few years would have a huge impact on the number of people affected by dementia.

Identifying people who are most likely to benefit from early intervention will require gathering specialist information such as genetics and brain scan imaging, which current services cannot deliver on the required scale, experts say.

The Edinburgh Consensus was led by Prof Craig Ritchie and Dr Tom Russ from CCBS, with Prof Martin Rossor (UCL) and Prof Alistair Burns (University of Manchester). It was written by Alzheimer’s disease researchers and clinicians from UK universities alongside the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Association of British Neurologists and the charities Alzheimer Scotland, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.


Brain changes that lead to dementia begin decades before symptoms. Experiences at all stages of life can influence the likelihood of developing dementia and it is never too early to think about reducing your risk. What we have to ensure is that clinical services keep step with scientific advances to make sure the public and patients benefit.

Professor Craig RitchieDirector of Centre for Dementia Prevention, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Related links

Read the article: The Edinburgh Consensus: preparing for the advent of disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 2017 9:85 dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13195-017-0312-4

Centre for Dementia Prevention website

Professor Craig Ritchie Principal Investigator profile

Dr Tom Russ Principal Investigator profile

Neurodegenerative conditions research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences