Patients exhibiting the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, who are diagnosed sooner than usual, are able to get necessary medications faster than those who don’t get tested. These patients had better outcomes.
Medicine sooner, outcomes better
“The patients whose doctors were made aware of the Alzheimer’s disease metabolic pattern in their brains received Alzheimer’s therapies sooner, and did better than patients whose doctors did not have the benefit of that information,” explained study principal investigator Daniel Silverman, A UCLA professor of molecular and medical pharmacology. “During the subsequent two years after their PET scans, these patients had superior executive function, better memory abilities and greater preservation of overall cognitive function, providing the first direct evidence that patients whose early Alzheimer’s disease is revealed by FDG-PET will do better than patients with the same condition, but with their brain metabolism pattern remaining unknown to their doctors and themselves.”
Medicare needs to cover the PET scan diagnosis
Medicare does not reimburse for PET scans obtained for dementia. This might change on October 1. This is the only kind of neuroimaging used in the evaluation of cognitively declining patients. “Patients who don’t have Alzheimer’s disease may be prescribed drugs that won’t help them, or even make them worse,” Silverman explained. “And each year of taking these medications costs hundreds of dollars more than the reimbursement for a PET scan would.”
Early diagnosis, early treatment, reduced costs
On the flipside, patients with early onset Alzheimer’s won’t get an accurate diagnosis and subsequently the drugs which could preserve their neurocognitive functioning for longer. Nursing home care could be necessary six to nine months earlier than if the proper diagnosis and drugs were applied.
Neuroimaging is key
“Patients exhibiting Alzheimer-like neurodegenerative changes in cerebral metabolism were over three times more likely to be prescribed medications in the first year following PET when results of the scans were immediately released,” according to the abstract presented at the meeting. “This in turn was associated with significantly better performance on neuropsychological tests of memory, executive function and general cognitive status over a two-year follow-up period. This study provides the first direct evidence for improved cognitive outcomes attributable to a neuroimaging test of any kind.”
Source: MedicalNewsToday, UCLA