A new tool to detect Alzheimer’s earlier and more accurately in patients at the earliest sign of memory problems. The test uses a chemical called Florbetapir or Amyvid; aradioactive agent that tags clumps the sticky amyloid in the brain. Amyloid proteins are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s but the presence of amyloid in the brain does not exclusive represent Alzheimer’s. The Florbetapir is inected into the bloodstream and the chemical is detected via a radiology test called a positron emission tomography or PET scan. A positive scan suggests moderate to frequent amyloid plaques are present in the brain which in a patient with symptoms of cognitive loss is consistent with Alzheimer’s. However, if the scan is negative or only few clumps of amyloid, the cognitive loss may be for other reasons that are not Alzheimer’s, and other etiologies could then be pursued. At present, amyloid can be suspected by MRI of head/brain but only other way to confirm amyloid plaque is by autopsy and direct examination of brain tissue after death.
Amyvid will be available in limited quantities starting in June, 2012 and only at limited sites; in other words, it will be experimental and insurance will not cover the cost of $1,600 for the shot and then a similar cost for the PET scan and another cost for the radiologist interpretation for likely total out of pocket cost of approx $3,500 to $4,000 dollars, even more in a university hospital based center. Lastly, radiologists need to be trained on how to interpret these new findings and Eli Lilly & Co, the drug’s manufacturer and the FDA have put together a 3hr on-line and in-person training program for physicians.
Remember, this test is only helpful once amyloid is already deposited in moderate amount with cognitive loss; exciting new research in Neurobiology out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is looking into the prevention of Alzheimer’s with bio-identical hormones in both women and in men! Imagine, being able to prevent the deposition of amyloid and keeping quality of life by keeping a low dose of the same bio-identical hormone that your body has already been producing from age of puberty for at least 30-40years! This is a very new field of study and more news is certain to come out; stay in touch with us as this story unfolds.