2037 is the same as in last year’s report.

Groups Defend Guidelines for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

New proposed guidelines for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease were defended this week by the Alzheimer’s Association and the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

The guidelines, released in July, include the use of biomarkers to identify people who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, much the same way that high cholesterol levels are used to identify people at risk for heart disease, The New York Times reported.

But critics question the point of diagnosing Alzheimer’s before a person even has symptoms, since there are no treatments for the disease. Others are concerned that the early diagnosis guidelines are simply an offering to drug companies so that they can start marketing expensive and perhaps not very effective new drugs.

In a conference call Wednesday, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging clarified their position. At this stage, biomarkers would be used only for research. For example, some patients would have biomarker tests to determine how brain changes predict disease, The Times reported.

And it’s believed that new criteria for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease might help in the testing of potential new drugs.

“Certainly, we are not out there trying to help drug companies,” Dr. Reisa Sperling of Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, told The Times.

But currently, nearly all drugs are tested only in people who have severe Alzheimer’s symptoms, which almost guarantees failure.

“We are trying these drugs way too late,” Spierling said.

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