Two significant developments have shaped the landscape of Alzheimer’s news in recent times. The first is the FDA’s approval of Leqembi, a groundbreaking drug that slows down the progression of the disease. The second is a surprising study that reveals the underdiagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a common precursor to Alzheimer’s.
The study, led by Soeren Mattke, Director of the Brain Health Observatory at USC Dornsife’s Center for Economic and Social Research, highlights a concerning fact – more than 90% of the estimated 8 million Americans with MCI are unaware of their condition. Early detection and treatment are crucial for better outcomes in MCI caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However, obstacles such as limited access to Alzheimer’s specialists, lack of awareness, and financial constraints prevent many individuals from receiving timely care.
To address this issue, Julie Zissimopoulos, a professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, emphasizes the need for cognitive screening to become a routine part of healthcare. Currently, only one-third of older Americans report being assessed for cognitive issues, despite Medicare’s requirement for comprehensive cognitive assessment during annual wellness visits. Making cognitive screening a standard practice will enable the early identification of individuals at the highest risk and lead to interventions that can slow down cognitive decline.
Furthermore, the approval of Leqembi comes with a crucial risk-benefit evaluation. The drug, while offering small benefits, carries potential side effects such as brain swelling and bleeding, which can be life-threatening. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, highlights the need to carefully weigh the risks and potential benefits for each patient. The decision to prescribe Leqembi should be based on a thorough evaluation of the individual’s condition and priorities.
In addition to medical interventions, pharmacists play a vital role in identifying reversible causes of cognitive decline. Tatyana Gurvich, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the USC Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, highlights the importance of accurate diagnosis and reviews of medication regimens. High-risk medications, with an anticholinergic profile or sedative properties, can contribute to cognitive decline and should be deprescribed when appropriate.
Lastly, a new Medicare proposal aims to provide training and support for family caregivers. Given the lack of a comprehensive guide for family members following a dementia diagnosis, this proposal recognizes the need for resources and education to assist caregivers in navigating the challenges of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
Overall, early cognitive screening, informed decision-making regarding medication options, and robust caregiver support are essential components in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. By addressing these areas, we can improve diagnosis rates, optimize treatment approaches, and enhance the quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What is mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in relation to Alzheimer’s disease?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a stage of cognitive decline that is more pronounced than expected for a person’s age but not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. MCI is often considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, with individuals experiencing memory problems and other cognitive difficulties.
2. What are the potential side effects of Leqembi?
Leqembi, the first drug to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, carries potential side effects such as brain swelling and bleeding. These side effects can lead to seizures and even death. The decision to prescribe Leqembi involves carefully weighing the risks and potential benefits for each patient.
3. How can pharmacists contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease?
Pharmacists play a crucial role in identifying potential reversible causes of cognitive decline, such as high-risk medications. They can collaborate with prescribers to deprescribe medications that contribute to cognitive slippage and ensure accurate diagnosis. Additionally, pharmacists can offer medication reviews and guidance on managing medications to minimize adverse events.
4. What support is available for family caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease?
Recognizing the challenges faced by family caregivers, a new Medicare proposal aims to provide training and support for them. This proposal acknowledges the need for resources and education to assist caregivers in understanding and managing the complexities of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is to enhance caregiver knowledge and improve overall care outcomes.