Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Preclinical Alzheimer's ?

An article in the New York Times today reports that medical experts are recommending new guidelines to diagnose Alzheimer's dementia earlier. We're pretty sure the disease starts 10-20 years before people become symptomatic, in fact I was at a seminar yesterday and heard that very statement. But I view this news with trepidation.

The experts propose using MRI scans (expensive), PET scans (even more expensive), and biomarker testing (not even that common, and certainly expensive) to determine if a person "preclinical Alzheimer's". Some of the reasons given for diagnosing earlier is so that the disease can be treated. Except that there aren't any drugs on the market yet that will do that. Aricept and Namenda can only do so much, and as far as I can tell, they might not be effective in this particular instance.

Another reason given is that it will give people the chance to make plans and get their affairs in order. Except most don't do that now. It's rare that we have someone come in and say they've just been diagnosed and they want to do or review their estate planning and talk about when they might need a guardian. Of course I want people to do that, but I don't think many people in their 50's will do that if that faced with a diagnosis of "preclinical Alzheimer's".

I invite you to share your thoughts about this news. Me, I'm going to be chewing on it a while.

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