In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Dr. Sanjay W. Pimplikar, an associate neurosciences professor at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, advises against the use of biomarkers, brain scans and spinal fluid analyses to promote early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The danger, he asserts, is disease over-diagnosis, which he inaccurately parallels to prostate-specific antigen tests, warranting ACSH's Jeff Stier to say, “those are such different cases.”
Dr. Pimplikar further states, “So, even if the new recommendations rendered the diagnosis earlier and unassailable, there is no therapeutic avenue to use this information to effectively treat the patient.” “…Yet!” exclaims ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. He adds, “The only way to get a new therapeutic avenue is to diagnose earlier so we can conduct further studies to treat and prevent the disease.”
“According to Dr. Pimplikar’s paradigm, we’ll never make any progress. The status quo will always be the same,” says Stier.
Spinal tap procedures are painful and general imaging scans can expose patients to harmful radiation, so both should be avoided in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, says Dr. Pimplikar.
“This is a bizarre reason to rant against spinal taps. If the test was an accurate predictor of Alzheimer’s disease, I would say that’s clearly the way to go. Also, low levels of radiation are actually beneficial to health, not dangerous,” says Dr. Ross.