The Good News on Alzheimer’s: Better Ways to Diagnose It. Drug Trials Offer Promise.

When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is devastating. In the past, it was not always clear if that was in fact the true diagnosis, or if it was some other type of dementia. Now that researchers have a better understanding of how the disease works, it is more accurately being diagnosed and we are continuing to move closer to drugs that may actually help. Thanks for visiting us at Advocare of South Florida. We provide Geriatric Care Management to area residence of North Palm Beach, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and more.

Over the past 15 years, researchers have developed a greater understanding of how the disease works. We now have more accurate ways of diagnosing Alzheimer’s and are moving closer to developing drugs to directly attack the disease. Much of this work is still in the early stages, but experts are growing more hopeful about dealing with the debilitating disease, which currently has no cure.

Now, for example, we no longer have to rely on autopsies to confirm the existence of Alzheimer’s plaques. In a major advance last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a method that uses a radioactive dye, known commercially as Amyvid, to light up amyloid plaques in a PET scan.

The FDA approved Amyvid to rule out Alzheimer’s when the scan is negative and to confirm the presence of plaques when positive, but that does not necessarily indicate the disease is present. However, some doctors are using the scans to confirm the disease, which experts say is misdiagnosed up to a quarter of the time. Paul Aisen, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study at University of California at San Diego, calls Amyvid an “enormous advance” because a positive scan, combined with his clinical diagnosis, means he can tell patients and their families the disease is “present, not probable.”

However, the scans are not available everywhere, cost $3,000 to $4,000 and are not covered by Medicare or other insurers.

Still, says John Morris, a neurologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, “families want to know.” A few of his patients have paid for the test out of pocket. “They want to put a name on it, to deal with it, even if there isn’t a curative therapy for it.”

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