A recent study on whether brain scans can help detect Alzheimer’s disease has now left the Medicare officials confused. The study missed its goals, curbing up the cost of healthcare and raising a question if the expensive brain scans are even worth it.
The study included 25,000 Medicare recipients and had a budget of $100 million. Closely watched by the private insurers, the results have left the health sector disappointed.
As currently, the disease has no cure. It is worth noting that most of the elderly population develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common form of dementia at an average age of 65 years.
Those who support the coverage hope to persuade Medicare of the benefits of brain scan, even if it is costly. “An accurate diagnosis helps families plan for the future even if the course of the disease can’t be changed”, said Dr Gil Rabinovici of the University of California, San Francisco.
Amidst of the Coronavirus pandemic, Dr Rabinovici led the study online and gave results at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
Medicare and Medicaid Agency considers all information on benefits and risks, a spokesperson said on behalf of the centres. A formal request needs to be filed to prompt the agency to reconsider its decision made in 2013. And exclude scans except in case of research and studies,
New Discoveries of the Study:
In the US, more than 5 million people aged 65 and older are suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia. Eighty per cent of them are 75 or older, and every one in 10 people aged 65 and older is living with the disease. So far, the only sure way to diagnose it is checking the brain after death.
However, as found in the studies, brain scans can help detect any trace of Alzehimer’s for a cure while the person is still living, but the scans developed by PET costs $4,000 to $5,000. Unsure of the benefits of the scans, many insurers don’t offer to cover the cost of these expensive brain scans.
As a part of the study, 12,684 people suffering either dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment. It is a less severe condition than brain scans. Later, comparing the reports with those of Medicare recipients, who were similar in age, sex and other factors but didn’t undergo any scan.
The study was aimed at knowing if brain scans are more affordable than hospitalizations and emergency room visits for diagnosing dementia.
Surprisingly, the brain scans can curb up the costs by 10 per cent. But there were fewer hospitalizations noted in case of those who suffered Alzheimer’s when compared to those who didn’t.
“It’s a very fair question — why should we even do this testing?”, said Dr Suzzane Schindler, a Neurologist from St. Louis, after the study proved there is no treatment to alter the course of the disease. But families and patients want an accurate diagnosis to make important life decisions, she added.
Even though brain scans open the doors to an accurate diagnosis, several blood tests are on the horizon too.