A treatment for Alzheimer's disease will be available within a decade and may ultimately be prescribed in a similar way to statins to prevent the onset of the illness, experts have predicted.
Speaking ahead of a lecture at the Royal Society, Prof John Hardy, a dementia expert from University College London, said that drug trials were showing such promise that he believed we were now "in an era of great optimism". Prof Hardy said it was likely that drugs would be available by 2025 that would radically push back the age at which people develop dementia.
"We're on target for therapies by 2025," he said. "All of us are excited about drug trials that are going on now. In the coming year we will know if we are at the start of a new era of better treatments for slowing or stopping the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Last summer pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that early trial results showed that the drug solanezumab could prevent mental decline from Alzheimer's disease by a third.
It is the first time that a medication has been shown to work on the underlying disease process itself rather than the symptoms by clearing out the sticky amyloid plaques that stop brain cells from communicating with each other.
The drug would be given by infusion, but experts say that there could come a time when people at risk of dementia are screened and given preventative drugs, like statins are used to prevent heart problems.
Dr Simon Ridley, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We're not at the stage where we have a drug like a statin. The kind of drugs we're talking about at the moment would be very expensive infusions."
There are an estimated 50,000 people living with dementia or Alzheimer's in Ireland.
A recent study by Cambridge University suggested that cholesterol in the body could be driving vascular dementia, so controlling diet could help prevent up to 30pc of cases.
"Reduction in the proportion of elderly cases might relate to the fact we are getting better at controlling cholesterol," said Prof Hardy.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer's Society, said the development of treatments that can slow the rate of memory loss in Alzheimer's would be "be life-changing" for people with the debilitating condition. (© Daily Telegraph, London)