The government said it would spend 1 trillion won ($920 million) on research and development to fight dementia by 2029. The announcement came as President Moon Jae-in has pushed for a program to put more responsibility on the state in taking care of dementia patients since last year.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Science and ICT said they would inject 1 trillion won budget in R&D of dementia for 10 years, to identify the causes of dementia, prevent and diagnose the disease, treat and care for dementia patients, and replenish related infrastructure.
According to the health-welfare ministry, the government spent 166.7 billion won on dementia-related R&D from 2012 to 2016. The amount is equivalent to 0.2 percent of the national R&D expenditure, and 0.3 percent of the dementia management cost. Despite the increasing budget for dementia, the absolute size is still too small, experts said.
Korea’s R&D spending for dementia has also excessively concentrated on diagnosis (29.2 percent), treatment (24.9 percent), and finding causes (23 percent). The expenditure for taking care of dementia patients (12.8 percent), dementia prevention (6.1 percent) and infrastructure (4 percent) received relatively small investment.
On the other hand, advanced nations are making considerable investments in dementia management. The U.S. spent $42.8 billion on dementia R&D in 2017 alone, under the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia. The U.K. government plans to invest 730 million pounds ($1.02 billion) from 2015 to 2020 under the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020. Japan spent 7.1 billion yen in dementia R&D in 2014. The country also supports long-term research, early diagnosis, raising awareness, and enhancing connectedness among dementia patients.
The Moon administration said it would make dementia R&D activities goal-oriented, leading to original technology development, facilitation of linkages with clinical research, and commercialization.
In detail, the government will spend 209.1 billion won on research and identification of causes, advanced research, early detection of high-risk groups, technological development for predicting dementia, technology development for prevention and management, and strategic planning for spreading technology.
The government allocated 209.1 billion won to innovative diagnostic technologies, including those to raise image diagnosis accuracy and consistency, minimally invasive diagnosis technology based on blood and body fluids, development of bio-signal based diagnosis technology, and integrated diagnosis technology.
The government will invest 212.3 billion won in customized treatment technologies, including the development of a new drug to treat dementia fundamentally, early development of a novel drug for clinical trials, and development of non-drug treatment technology.
Another 193.1 billion won will be spent on 233 tasks, including developing of technology to support patient’s functions and safety improvement, reducing the burden of care and developing convenience-increasing technology, providing technology support for the active social participation of dementia patients.
The government will also spend 200 billion won on building dementia infrastructure with 30 tasks such as establishing an open database system and researching on dementia brain bank, including resources of human bodies.
"The state R&D projects for dementia will reduce the national health expenditure and improve the quality of life of the people, as they will delay deterioration of dementia symptoms. The dementia incidence and the time and cost of caring will also go down,” the government said. “Such studies will be applied to diagnosis and treatment of various degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and mad cow disease.”
In a national survey in June last year, the Korean people recognized dementia as a disease that should be cured with top priority to reduce burdensome medical expenditure (34.3 percent), painful lives of the patient and family (54.8 percent), and difficulty in finding causes and treatment alternatives (26.4 percent).
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