New Hope for Alzheimer’s Sufferers?
Research has shown promising results for the drug Aricept in treating a precursor to Alzheimer’s called mild cognitive impairment. Others, however, believe MCI is a “bogus” disease used as a marketing ploy by pharmaceutical companies and others trying to exploit sufferers.
New Hope for Alzheimer’s Sufferers? (ABC News)
Alzheimer’s disease, the neurological disorder that affects some 5 million Americans, may in some cases be preceded by an ailment called mild cognitive impairment. But some researchers are skeptical that MCI, marked by the progressive loss of memory, is even a real disorder. “MCI is an arbitrary category on the continuum of cognitive aging,” said Dr. Peter Whitehouse of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Criticism of the term MCI has become louder following the publication of a recent study involving Aricept, a drug used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that Aricept slows the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe Aricept, given to patients showing the symptoms of MCI, pushes back the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease by a year.
There is no test currently available that can make a definitive diagnosis of MCI. Only detailed patient histories, along with specific cognitive and psychological testing, can help physicians make a diagnosis of MCI. Disagreement regarding the term MCI relates to its broad usage. Some feel that the term is too inclusive and may capture persons who just have a normal mental decline associated with aging.Other experts suggest there may be an ulterior motive behind creating an MCI, or “early Alzheimer’s,” diagnosis. “MCI is a marketing tool for drug companies,” said Dr. Thomas Finucane, professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “They are taking advantage of the despair and heartbreak of caregivers who love family members with Alzheimer’s, and selling billions of dollars worth of drugs that have no meaningful effect,” Finucane said.
Other researchers believe MCI is unquestionably a valid diagnosis. “This is a real condition,” said Dr. D.P. Devanand, research scientist at Columbia University in New York. “In MCI the rate of conversion to Alzheimer’s disease is around 10 [percent] to 15 percent annually compared to 1 [percent] to 2 percent in healthy elderly comparison subjects,” Devanand said. “This difference validates the concept of MCI.”
Interesting. It sounds like a legitimate medical dispute on an area of breaking research, rather than a situation where those who might profit are lining up on one side and most legitimate scientists on the other.