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New York Times (July 13, 2010): Rules Seek to Expand Diagnosis of Alzheimer's
For the first time in 25 years, medical experts are proposing a major change in the criteria for Alzheimer's disease, part of a new movement to diagnose and, eventually, treat the disease earlier.
The new diagnostic guidelines, presented Tuesday at an international Alzheimer’s meeting in Hawaii, would mean that new technology like brain scans would be used to detect the disease even before there are evident memory problems or other symptoms.
If the guidelines are adopted in the fall, as expected, some experts predict a two- to threefold increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Many more people would be told they probably are on their way to getting it. The Alzheimer’s Association says 5.3 million Americans now have the disease.
The changes could also help drug companies that are, for the first time, developing new drugs to try to attack the disease earlier. So far, there are no drugs that alter the course of the disease.
Development of the guidelines, by panels of experts convened by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association, began a year ago because, with a new understanding of the disease and new ways of detection, it was becoming clear that the old method of diagnosing Alzheimer’s was sorely outdated.