Is it Really Alzheimer’s?

Dementia testing has a new diagnosis drug that shows promise in global studies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Correct diagnosis is key to the proper treatment of any disease. Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for 60%-80% of dementia cases, yet it is often misdiagnosed. New testing drugs are being created to increase diagnostic accuracy.

On the heels of the FDA approval for the radioactive dye, Amyvid, comes another similar drug to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with the aid of a PET scan.

Florbetaben just finished phase III testing in a global pool with positive results for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

"Talk to your doctor about Alzheimer’s screening methods"

Dr. Marwan Sabbagh MD., is a dementia neurologist, director of Banner Sun Health Research Institute and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, and he’s been working with doctors all over the world to develop an Alzheimer’s diagnostic drug.

Accurately diagnosing Alzheimer’s is difficult. In an interview Dr. Sabbagh stated, “This is an exciting time, historically Alzheimer’s diagnosis has been done by exclusion since 1984.” What is now known as the Alzheimer’s Association developed the criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s in 1984.

Yet the only way to be absolutely certain the patient has Alzheimer’s is to look at their brain after death or with an invasive biopsy of brain tissue.

The drug Dr. Sabbagh is working with is the biomarker, florbetaben. It’s a radioactive dye that binds to the beta-amyloid plaques, a specific kind of protein present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Doctors can inject florbetaben into a patient and then give them a PET scan to see if the beta-amyloid plaques show up on the scan to indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s disease.

While there is one drug similar to florbetaben on the market as of last week, Dr. Sabbagh speculates makers will be filing for FDA approval of florbetaben by the end of the year.

“It’s a game changer in the near future, and this is an exciting study [with supporting evidence] above and beyond accurate detection of Alzheimer’s”, says Dr. Sabbagh.

The phase III study looked at 204 end-of-life patients from 4 continents, and injected them with florbetaben prior to PET scans. Later autopsies of the patients showed side by side with a 100% sensitivity, which means that’s how many were correctly identified as having Alzheimer’s.

And 92% specificity, which means how many of those negative for the test were correctly identified.

While we don’t know how much the injection will cost PET scans can typically run anywhere from $3,000-$6,000.

This study will be discussed by Dr. Sabbagh at the 64th annual American Academy of Neurology meeting in New Orleans April 21-28, 2012. Funding for the research and trial of this study was supported by Bayer Healthcare Berlin (Germany). No conflicts of interest were found and financial information has yet to be released.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 12, 2012
Last Updated:
April 15, 2012