April 13, 2012

Amyvid - Drug to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Highlights Dilemma That Disease Still Has No Cure

by Kantor & Kantor LLP

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lily has developed a new drug with the ability to help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease rather than rely on symptoms alone to determine if a patient is suffering from the debilitating brain disease. Up to now, the only way to definitively conclude Alzheimer’s, which has symptoms very similar to dementia associated with aging, has been to autopsy the brain after the sufferer’s death. The drug, Amyvid, identifies the presence of “amyloid plaques” caused by Alzheimer’s in the living brain. This may be good news for the 5.4 million Americans living with the disease and their families who want a conclusive diagnosis. See, “A New Way to Detect Alzheimer’s,”

On the other hand, the drug may cause more problems than it solves. According to Dr. Clifford Saper, Chairman of Neurology and Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, most people older than 80 have some level of amyloid in their brains, and the amount of amyloid present doesn’t necessarily indicate whether the patient has the disease or not. “There is no change in the care of most patients based upon knowing this information, as we have no specific treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” Saper told ABC News.

The largest ripple Amyvid is causing is the potential for controversy about who is going to pay the significant cost for the diagnostic test, the government or insurance companies. Medicare and Medicaid already spend $130 million annually to treat Alzheimer’s.

The good news for people with long-term care (LTC) insurance who suffer from either Alzheimer’s or dementia is that – at least for now – LTC insurers for the most part don’t differentiate between the two. Most people quality for their LTC benefits when they need help with at least three activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing or dressing. Most policies allow for care at home, in a traditional nursing home or in an assisted living facility, options that should be preserved no matter what disease you may acquire as you age. Sadly, though, we are receiving more and more calls from families with a loved one fighting for benefits to pay for Alzheimer’s care.

If you are in that situation, you likely need experienced legal counsel to force your LTC insurer to pay the benefits you deserve. Call us at (800) 446-7529. We can help.