Early Detection Tests for Alzheimer’s Disease: Introduction

Posted by Christian Elliott - 7th January 2013

Rising Dementia Rates are a Global Health Trend

A positive aspect of rising living standards in most of the world has been a significant improvement in worldwide average life expectancies, increasing from 52 years in 1960 to 69 years in 2009. Regional differences are even more striking — the average life expectancy for a person living in North America has risen from 70 years in 1960 to 78 years in 2009, while the life expectancy in East Asia & Pacific countries as a group has grown from 47 years to 73 years during this same period.


In tandem with improving life expectancies, the global population of people over age 65 has risen dramatically, from 150 Million in 1960 to over 500 Million in 2010. An important corollary to this trend is the accelerating rate of worldwide dementia cases, which carry significant health care, social, and public policy implications. Over 35 Million people are living with dementia worldwide today, and this number is projected to increase to 66 Million in 2030 and 115 Million by 2050.

Accelerating Dementia Care Costs

The worldwide cost of dementia care (both direct and indirect costs) is estimated to be the equivalent of 1% of global GDP, or more than US$600 Billion in 2010. Over 70% of this cost (approx. US $423 Billion) is centered in North America and Europe.

The rapid rise in global dementia cases over the next 30-40 years will present a series of challenges for governments, health care providers, and families, ranging from overburdened health care systems, to the need for public awareness of dementia and support services for caregivers. Another important part is the need for standardized dementia screening guidelines.

Early Screening and Detection of Alzheimer’s Becomes Important

In 2011, the US National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association released updated diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. These new guidelines include a clear delineation of Alzheimer’s disease stages:

A common theme emerging from both completed and ongoing clinical trials is the need for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, either in the Pre-Clinical or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) phase. The need for early detection stems from two primary sources:

Many Alzheimer’s drug candidates, designed to prevent the buildup of amyloid beta in the brain, will most likely only be effective before any substantial amounts of the brain protein accumulate. This will require one or more testing methods to detect the initial presence of amyloid beta deposits, and/or initial signs of cognitive impairment.

**NEW: Read the Cognitive Screening and Assessment Guide**

Alzheimer’s symptom management medications such as donepezil (and future adjuncts) are also significantly more effective at the beginning of the disease process, rather than starting medication after obvious signs of cognitive impairment are present. Effective symptom management for Alzheimer’s requires a proactive approach for early symptom detection.

An increased research focus on validating methods of testing for Alzheimer’s disease has yielded a number of approaches for detecting disease markers before obvious cognitive impairment symptoms appear.

To read more about early detection testing options for Alzheimer’s disease, download the full report:

Companies listed in the report include Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK), Eli Lilly (LLY), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Roche-Genentech (RHHBY), GE Healthcare (GE), Philips (PHG) Siemens (SI), Positron Corporation (POSC), NeuroTrax, CogState (CGS.AX), TauRX Pharmaceuticals, and more.
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