Study Suggests Many Alzheimer's Patients Don't Have the Disease

Many people believed to have Alzheimer's may not have the disease, according to researchers.

Their four-year study was launched in 2016 and will include more than 18,000 Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. PET scans are being used to determine if their brains contain the amyloid plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's, the Washington Post reported.

Results from 4,000 patients tested so far show that only just 54.3 percent of MCI patients and 70.5 percent of dementia patients had the plaques.

While a positive test for amyloid does not mean someone has Alzheimer's, a negative test definitively rules it out, the Post reported.

The findings, presented Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London, could lead to major changes in diagnosis and treatment.

"If someone had a putative diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, they might be on an Alzheimer's drug like Aricept or Namenda," said James Hendrix, the Alzheimer Association's director of global science initiatives who co-presented the findings, the Post reported.

"What if they had a PET scan and it showed that they didn't have amyloid in their brain? Their physician would take them off that drug and look for something else," he said.

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