Detect Alzheimer's Earlier Than Ever!

Detecting Alzheimer's early sounds like a great thing, but a recent development seems like just another step in the wrong direction.

According to a report on Medscape today, and also printed in the New York Times, medical experts have proposed major changes in the diagnostic procedures used to identify Alzheimer's disease.  The new procedures will allow doctors to diagnose and even treat the disease earlier. The article then goes on to say that if the new guidelines are adopted, some experts predict that there will be a two or three times increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's disease.

Uh oh..... Does this sound familiar?  

It does to me.  This sounds exactly like the ever-lowering guidelines for safe cholesterol levels, which have resulted in an incredible number of people who regularly take cholesterol lowering medication.  Read this 2001 report from the Wall Street Journal and see if it doesn't seem quite similar.

In my mind, this is what's happening:  a major pharmaceutical company with a blockbuster (meaning very profitable) drug decides that it would like to sell more of the same.  One nice way would be to simply lower the 'threshold for prescription'.  In the case of cholesterol medication, lowering the 'safe' cholesterol number does exactly this.  It used to be that a cholesterol level of 200 was fine; now it's a heart attack waiting to happen.  Oh, and please ignore that the correlation between cholesterol levels and heart disease has yet to be proven.

If three times as many people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, three times as many drugs can be sold to deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer's.  Simple math.

It's sad that more effort isn't put into actually identifying the cause of Alzheimer's disease and how to prevent it in the first place.  Unfortunately that's not where the money is.

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