Headlines are breathlessly declaring the “changes” that have come about, thanks to latest clinical trial for Alzheimer’s patients.
The researchers behind it promised us that it would “decrease uncertainty” and “increase confidence”in what physical characteristics cause cognitive impairment.
To catch Alzheimer’s earlier… and improve the outcomes of cognitively impaired patients.
The sad reality is… this clinical trial hasn’t accomplished either of those things!
Yet the study’s authors are selling the results as a “win” for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Here’s why they’re wrong.
Smoke and mirrors
The clinical trial known as “Imaging Dementia—Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) Study” has just released its first set of results.
The IDEAS study looked at over 11,000 older folks who’d been diagnosed with at least mild cognitive impairment… some with dementia.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis was a possible consideration in all of them – but prior to conducting the PET scan, the diagnosis was uncertain.
Now, the researchers expected the PET scans to be the deciding factor in SOME cases – to tip the scales in favor of or against Alzheimer’s.
But the amyloid PET imaging changed the diagnoses – and subsequent clinical management — in DOUBLE the percentage of patients than what the researchers had expected.
In 25% of cases, PET scans helped change diagnoses from Alzheimer’s to non-Alzheimer’s disease.
And at first, that seems like a reason to celebrate…
The scans also switched non-Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses to Alzheimer’s in 10.5% of cases.
Again, better to know than NOT know.
But here’s where I smell a rat…
To be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, two deposits must be found in your brain:
- Beta amyloid
- Tau protein.
Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging can only identify ONE of them– amyloid deposits.
A positive detection of amyloid on a PET scan can’t help definitively diagnose you with Alzheimer’s on its own.
It just confirms that Alzheimer’s still MIGHT be a possibility.
That says to me that they didn’t know how to diagnose Alzheimer’s before… and they STILL don’t!
But they refuse to admit it.
So, they used these new scan results to alter patient treatment protocols in nearly two-thirds of all cases in the study… within 90 days of the PET scan.
You can bet that meant prescribing Alzheimer’s drugs to those who test positive for amyloid… even though NONE of those drugs work.
And it also meant prescribing OTHER drugs to those who test negative for amyloid.
NOT prescribing drugs is, of course, NOT an option! Not for the mainstream, anyway.
Now, when it comes to patient outcomes… that portion of the study is still ongoing.
And those are really the only results YOU care about!
Yet the researchers have ALREADY jumped the gun… and are recommending that these tests be made more widely available.
If the PET scans don’t reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits of cognitively impaired patients… and they don’t result in treatment that actually SLOWS, STOPS, or REVERSES cognitive impairment… what’s the point?
These scans cost THOUSANDS of dollars each… and many insurers (including Medicare) aren’t yet convinced that their plans should cover the costs.
But the fix was in…
Because the IDEAS study was supported, in part, by ALL THREE companies currently selling approved amyloid PET tracers…
And Avid Radiopharmaceuticals (a wholly owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company), General Electric Healthcare, and Life Molecular Imaging wouldn’t put their money in a mouth that wouldn’t support their products.
No wonder its lead author, Dr. Gil Rabinovici of UC San Francisco, is in bed with Avid Radiopharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly…
And he AND his co-author are funded by a number of other pharma and tech firms.
Even the authors of the accompanying editorial divulgeda litany of financial conflicts!
Don’t let the mainstream’s spin on PET scans convince you to bow to a sacred cow.
Plenty of folks who have beta-amyloid deposits DON’T have Alzheimer’s… and plenty of folks WITH Alzheimer’s don’t have beta-amyloid deposits.
What really matters is your outcome – and ideally, that’s staying sharp as a tack for as long as possible.