LTC Bullet:  Alzheimer’s Cured!

Friday, October 3, 2014


LTC Comment:  Have you received the same spam barrage we have?  “My Grandma cured of Alzheimer’s Disease!!!”  The real news about Alzheimer’s after the ***news.***


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LTC Bullet:  They roll in at a rate of 15 or 20 per day with subject lines like these:  “Alzheimer's Finally Has an Effective Cure”; “The Cure to Alzheimer's Finally Found;” “Associated Press: Yale Has Alzheimer's Cure.”  Open one of these spam messages and you’ll be invited to visit a website for details.  Not a good idea if you’d rather avoid the effects of cybernetic dementia on your computer.

All this junk mail got us thinking about the real news regarding Alzheimer’s.  Hardly a week goes by without media stories, often hyperventilating, about some important new study shedding light on the disease’s cause, effects and means of prevention or treatment.  The one thing all these reports have in common is that they don’t seem ever to pan out.

A lot of money is spent on Alzheimer’s research.  Probably a lot more should be expended.  But I can’t help but wonder how much of the research on Alzheimer’s Disease comes from scientists, academics and companies chasing available funding.  Is it the best and most promising research that gets the funds?  Who decides?  Based on what criteria?  My personal experience evaluating research proposals in a former government job makes me very dubious. 

Following are some examples of stories about Alzheimer’s that we highlighted in LTC E-Alerts in the current year.  Our clippings service subscribers received each of these reports in real time.  Regular Center members got them all in our weekly compendium of the news clippings, the LTC E-Alerts.  We provide the clippings and the E-Alerts as a service to keep members and subscribers at the forefront of knowledge about everything related to long-term care service delivery and financing.

Now here are some of the stories about Alzheimer’s research we highlighted since the beginning of 2014.


NB:  This first item appears to be the story that stirred up all the spam about a “cure” for Alzheimers.

8/7/2014, “Drug cures Alzheimer's symptoms in mice, Yale researchers find,” by Stephanie H. Kim, McKnight's LTC News

Quote“Results showed that a single dose was enough to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's — enabling mice to learn and to recall motor skills, spatial information, signals and object memory. While many drugs have failed to work in humans, Lombroso is ‘optimistic that in the next couple of years, we will have identified a whole slew of STEP inhibitors,’ he told Newsweek.”

LTC CommentEven after so many false starts, hope springs eternal.


9/15/2014, “Alzheimer's Prevention for 30-Somethings With No Symptoms,” by Sumathi Reddy, Wall Street Journal

Quote:  “While Alzheimer's prevention is being widely studied, prevention programs at large medical centers are rare. Some of the field's leading experts say there isn't sufficient evidence to support making recommendations beyond eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly, advice that everyone should heed. There is no cure or particularly effective treatment for Alzheimer's.”

LTC Comment:  Pushing Alzheimer’s prevention for young people seems a little dubious given the lack of hard evidence that it helps beyond good general health practice.


9/10/2014, “More than 50% of dementia patients in nursing homes are given potentially pointless and dangerous drugs when near death, study finds,” by Tim Mullaney, McKnight's LTC News

Quote:  "Nursing homes administer largely pointless and potentially harmful drugs to a majority of residents with advanced dementia, according to findings in JAMA Internal MedicineOut of more than 5,400 residents under consideration, about 54% received a ‘medication with questionable benefit,’ the investigators determined. Alzheimer's disease drugs such as donepezil (Aricept) and memantine (Namenda) were the most commonly administered. There is little evidence that they improve cognitive functioning for people with advanced stages of dementia, and potentially put residents at risk for falls or urinary tract infections."

LTC Comment:  Wonder why this happens?  Follow the money.


7/17/2014, “Music ignites lost memories in 'good-news' film,” by Kim Painter, USA Today

Quote:  "Music has an unmatched power to bring back our pasts. But what if our memories have been lost to Alzheimer's or some other condition? Can music still work its magic? A new film, Alive Inside, says yes. The film, opening Friday in New York, features the work of Dan Cohen, a New York social worker who started taking personalized iPods to people with dementia in nursing homes several years ago. Cohen's non-profit Music & Memory got a huge boost in 2012 when an early clip from the film, featuring a gentleman named Henry, became an online sensation. It has been viewed more than 10 million times at various websites, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett says."

LTC Comment:  When an Alzheimer’s clip goes viral on YouTube you know something big is happening in the culture.


7/16/2014, “Chance of a senior developing Alzheimer's has dropped 44% over the last three decades, large U.S. study shows,” by Tim Mullaney, McKnight's LTC News

Quote:  "Long-term care providers in the United States have been preparing for a surge in residents as the baby boomer generation ages, and they already have been providing care for a growing number of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. The latest results suggest that estimates of needed services might be revised downward; however, increasing rates of obesity and diabetes suggest Alzheimer's cases might again creep up, investigators said." 

LTC Comment:  I wonder how this finding corresponds with earlier reports that Alzheimer's Disease goes vastly under-reported as a cause of death. 


7/13/2014, “Key to Detecting Alzheimer's Early Could Be in the Eye; Sense of Smell Also May Be a Way to Screen,” by  Shirley Wang, Wall Street Journal

Quote:  "Efforts to detect Alzheimer's earlier and more cheaply are focusing on signs of the disease in the eye and sense of smell." 

LTC Comment:  Thankfully, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder.


, “One in three Alzheimer's cases preventable, says research,” BBC News

Quote:  "One in three cases of Alzheimer's disease worldwide is preventable, according to research from the University of Cambridge.  The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says." 

LTC Comment:  I am dubious, but I'm headed to the gym cheerfully listening to an audio lecture all the same.


7/8/2014, “Study: Blood test might help identify Alzheimer's earlier,” by Gail Sullivan, Washington Post

Quote:  "A group of British scientists have identified 10 blood proteins that can predict with 87 percent accuracy whether someone with early signs of memory loss will develop Alzheimer's disease within a year."

LTC Comment:  So, 13% get false positives or false negatives?


6/23/2014, “
Feeding the Brain's Curiosity Helps Delay Alzheimer's,” by Nicole Ostrow, Bloomberg

Quote:  "People genetically prone to Alzheimer’s who went to college, worked in complex fields and stayed engaged intellectually held off the disease almost a decade longer than others, a study found. Lifelong intellectual activities such as playing music or reading kept the mind fit as people aged and also delayed Alzheimer’s by years for those at risk of the disease who weren’t college educated or worked at challenging jobs, the researchers said in the study published today in
JAMA Neurology."

LTC Comment:  Significant findings in this study.


06/20/2014, “
A Test for the Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease,”

“Known as the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination, or SAGE, the four-page test can be completed in about 10 to 15 minutes by patients at home, or while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. The test, downloadable free on the medical center’s website, is now used at doctors’ offices nationally.”

LTC Comment:  This test could be a helpful resource.


5/1/2014, “Scans Rule Out Alzheimer's,” by John Gever, MedPageToday

Quote:  "Autopsy findings in 74 elderly individuals confirmed the accuracy of brain scans for beta-amyloid plaques conducted before they died -- and also showed that the patients' clinical diagnoses were frequently wrong, a researcher said here." 

LTC Comment:  Recent coverage of efforts to get Alzheimer’s diagnosis right were needed and are welcome.


4/28/2014, “Dementia Facebook app to raise awareness of the illness,” BBC

:  “The FaceDementia app, by Alzheimer's Research UK, ‘takes over’ personal Facebook pages, and temporarily erases important memories, mimicking how dementia affects the brain.”

LTC Comment:  I guess there is an app for everything.


, “How Congress Can Fight the Alzheimer's Epidemic:  Delaying the disease's onset by five years would mean billions in health-care savings,” by Kenneth Davis, Wall Street Journal

Quote:  "Most individuals who develop Alzheimer's begin to show signs of the disease in their 70s. If we were able to slow the progress of the disease by 50%, most of these individuals wouldn't show symptoms until their 90s. Such a delay would enhance quality of life for patients and their families, while leading to substantial savings for Medicare and Medicaid. . . .  All signs indicate that Alzheimer's science will continue to accelerate rapidly, and drug development policies and incentives must be realigned to keep up with this knowledge base. If we could introduce a treatment next year to delay the onset of Alzheimer's by five years, annual total costs to all payers would fall by $447 billion in 2050."

LTC Comment:  Still, it seems that the frequent hopeful news about Alzheimer’s research always comes to naught.


, “How A New Alzheimer's Test Could Kill Long-Term Care Insurance -- Or Make It Cheaper,” by Howard Gleckman, Forbes

Quote:  "A widely available test to predict Alzheimer's would make any form of voluntary long-term care insurance impossible. 'It would be a huge game changer,' one insurance actuary told me."

LTC Comment:  Nonsense.  As long as the law is changed to allow--better yet, require--insurance carriers to have access to the same test results, a reliable test to predict Alzheimer's would increase the market for private LTC insurance and lower the premiums.  Such a test would impel financially responsible people to purchase insurance before they take the test.  Otherwise they would lose some or all insurability if test results showed a proclivity toward the disease.  If people therefore purchased LTC insurance earlier in life and if the test excluded more bad risks (anti-selection), the coverage itself could cost less.  On the other hand, a test for Alzheimer's could devastate publicly financed LTC programs by preventing people who could have and should have insured privately from obtaining coverage in the market. 


, “Researchers find way to predict Alzheimer's disease: report,” by Joel Landau, New York Daily News

Quote“A group of scientists claims it has developed a revolutionary test that can predict if someone will develop Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers told CNN they were able to find the connection through testing lipids levels in the blood. The testing found the blood test predicted who would get the degenerative brain disease that kills about half a million people a year with more than 90% accuracy — even if the patient has not exhibited any symptoms, the doctors said.”

LTC Comment:  Underwriting breakthrough?


12/31/2013, “High Vitamin-E Dose Slows Decline in Alzheimer's Patients, Study Finds,” by Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal

Quote:  "However, the research to be published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, found no impact on memory and doctors said there was no evidence that vitamin E prevents the debilitating disease." 

LTC Comment:  If it doesn’t help memory this news is less than epochal.


12/30/2013, “Cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease link strengthens in study,” by Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times

Quote:  "Well before signs of dementia trigger a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, a person's cholesterol levels may be a bellwether of amyloid plaque build-up in the brain, a new study finds. Long considered a reliable predictor of heart attacks and strokes, worrisome cholesterol levels may now raise concerns about dementia risk as well, prompting more aggressive use of drugs, including statins, that alter cholesterol levels."

LTC Comment:  Eat well to think well.