How early would you want to know if you had Alzheimer's disease? Undoubtedly one of the scariest conditions out there, new technologies might actually allow Alzheimer's to be detected much earlier in suspected cases. The new technology in question is an imaging agent that can be used with positron emission tomography (PET) scans to identify clumps of brain proteins called beta amyloid that are potential markers of the disease. This is one of the hot topics in the imaging space right now given the April 2012 Food and Drug Administration approval for Eli Lilly's Amyvid, the very first imaging agent of this type. The company is anticipated to begin a limited rollout of this product in June 2012.
But is it really a good thing to know early on if you have Alzheimer's. This is a particularly pertinent question at the moment given recent studies and subsequent recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force to reduce screening for prostate and breast cancer the argument being that some cases end up being treated unnecessarily, resulting in a lot of pain and suffering for the patient. In the case of Alzheimer's , there is actually no cure for the disease at the moment so, as a patient, being told you have Alzheimer's early has pretty much no benefits and can only be extremely upsetting.
Things may be looking more hopeful though. Both Eli Lilly and Pfizer are working on experimental drugs that could potentially cure Alzheimer's, and if these drugs are successful, demand for the imaging agent that can detect the disease would skyrocket. While this is a very hopeful sign both for the imaging market and humanity, really Amyvid will likely not reach its full market potential until these advancements are more concrete.