At the end of every year I attempt to gather a summary of the latest research on the prevention or cure of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I approach it with the hope that I can report something positive and not have to concede that we are standing still in fighting this incurable disease. So I will sort out my findings/ opinions into several categories, as this year has been a dizzying kaleidoscope.
BEST NEWS: It is two more years (end of 2019) until the results are available on the Phase 3 trial of aducanumab, a pharmaceutical to combat the brain tangles that engulf memory and personality. But the brain genie as I choose to refer to it, is still in the running. There are at least 5 others drugs in the pipeline but this one is definitely out in front in terms of positive results so far. Many other studies have swallowed tons of research dollars and given us back nothing.
THIS SHOULD BE GOOD NEWS: Researchers are on the cusp of having a less intrusive way of predicting Alzheimer’s. Not just diagnosing the active disease, but forecasting possible problems in the making. They are looking for a biomarker, maybe through a combination of blood tests. As the title of this NYT article says, if there is no cure would you want to know: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/17/opinion/sunday/What-if-You-Knew-Alzheimers-Was-Coming-for-You.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0
MOST FRUSTRATING NEWS: The most infuriating article I have read, proclaims that even if there was a good predictor test that someone is progressing towards a serious dementia and we had a cure, there is no health delivery infrastructure to reach people who would need to be tested diagnosed and treated in time. That is a lot to swallow, in other words, the treatment would be involved and you would have to target the right people at the right time.
MORE ENCOURAGEMENT WITH SELF HELP : There have been at least a dozen smaller studies broadcasting that good health habits (walking, eating well, keeping your mind active with new activities) may be helping to delay or prevent onset of memory problems. Visit my Memory Lane category on this blog for the ones that stand out.
MOST SURPRISING: I did learn this year that some people have lived with amyloid plague in their brains, but never got dementia or Alzheimer’s. Also medical science seems to be conceding that Alzheimer’s does not have any one causation.
WORST PRACTICE: That nursing homes doctors are over prescribing a medicine used on for a rare neurological disorder to sedate Alzheimer patients. These patients are much more likely to fall.
MOST GRATEFUL: After seeing government funding being threatened for any safety net approach to health care ( including research), I was very grateful to hear that Bill Gates is contributing a total of 100 million dollars to Alzheimer’s research. He has a personal stake in the the game as the men in his family have a definite history. The money is going to a consortium of UK/US drug companies.
So that is it the good, the bad and the ugly. I call it a draw.