Alzheimer’s Patients Benefit from Early PET Scanning, Study Confirms

The interim results from a study sponsored by the Centers for Medicare & Medical Services (CMS) confirm that patients with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who are diagnosed early with PET scans receive medication earlier and, thus, have better clinical outcomes. The research, which was presented at the Medical Biotech Forum in China, is the first of its kind to show evidence that earlier diagnosis is beneficial in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. At UCSF, we already offer amyloid imaging PET scans for patients who may display signs of AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The initial results show the findings of 63 volunteers who were studied over two years, while undergoing FDG-PET scans and neuropsychological testing at baseline every six months. Half of the patients’ scans were viewed by radiologists, while the other arm of the study did not offer patient scans to the doctors.  Results showed that approximately 40 percent of the patients whose doctors saw evidence of AD on the scan were given drugs to treat dementia within the first six months of the study. None of the patients with similar evidence of AD in the group where doctors didn’t have scan access received medication within six months, and only 12 percent were prescribed drugs within a year.

The patients who received earlier treatment benefited greatly during the subsequent two years following the PET scans. Those patients had superior executive function, better memory abilities and greater preservation of overall cognitive function, reported the study’s lead investigator Daniel Silverman, MD, PhD, of UCLA.

Early PET scanning and treatment is likely to reduce overall healthcare spending, as misdiagnosing patients is costly. Plus, patients with AD who are diagnosed and treated earlier may delay expensive care in a nursing home setting. At this point, Medicare will not be covering it, with the exception of the CED (Coverage with Evidence Development) clinical trial. To read more about it, click here.

At UCSF, we are proud to offer amyloid imaging PET scans. To see if you qualify, learn more here.

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