Lorna Miri reports on the latest findings from UCL’s dementia research study
A recent UCL study has shown that poorer dementia patients in England are less likely to be prescribed drugs.
The report, published in Age and Ageing, looked into the care of 77,045 dementia patients across the UK. Researchers used anonymous medical records from 2002-2013 to identify correlations between dementia diagnoses and the following prescriptions.
It was discovered that patients from more affluent areas in England are 27% more likely to be given anti-dementia drugs than patients from poorer constituencies.
This discrepancy is exclusive to England and was not found in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The latter two were also found to prescribe anti-dementia drugs more frequently than English practices. Inequality in dementia drug prescriptions seems to be a uniquely English problem.
In all four countries, prescription rates declined during 2006-2009 due to changes to prescription eligibility, stemming from cost issues. The National Institute of Health Care and Excellence announced that certain anti-dementia drugs would be released to patients with moderate, not mild, dementia. Following concerns that costs were being cut at the expense of healthcare this decision was reversed in 2009. However, Dr Claudia Cooper (UCL Psychiatry) said that when access to any treatment is rationed, “wealthier families tend to be better equipped to navigate the healthcare system.”
Whilst this study has raised many concerns of inequality in the NHS, it has also made others more determined to achieve equal access to dementia treatments. Professor Alan Thompson (Dean of UCL Brain Sciences Faculty) said that UCL is committed to tackling dementia across all fronts using the incredible breadth and depth of expertise available.”
Tackling dementia has been a main concern of UCL. Plans were announced in October that the university is set to build a world-class dementia research centre, partly funded by proceeds from the 5p supermarket plastic bag charge.
Featured image credit: Sam Fearnley