We’ve heard from many patients and caregivers about how difficult it is to get a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease but we haven’t heard the other side of the story – how thousands of people with mild cognitive symptoms were given the wrong diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association launched a four-year study in 2016 to scan the brains of over 18,000 Medicare patients with a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or dementia to see if they contain beta amyloid plaque, one of the hallmarks of the disease. Of the 4,000 people tested so far, the study, which is managed by the American College of Radiology, found only 54 percent of MCI patients and 70 percent of dementia patients had the plaques.
Over 400 doctors enrolled their patients in the study and over 60 percent of them are now changing their care plans for the patients. Many of the patients were on drugs that aim to slow the rate of cognitive decline associated with the disease. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s remains a challenge. Currently, the only definitive way of mapping the build up of beta amyloid plaque is through a PET scan or spinal tap. In 2013, U.S. based Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) declined to cover the tests, saying that it wouldn’t make a difference to patients when there is no known cure for the disease.
Read the full coverage in the Washington Post here.