Understanding Early vs. Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease — and Why It’s Important

Understanding Early vs. Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease — and Why It’s Important

An estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions, with projections showing that by 2050 that number will reach 12.7 million.

AD tends to progress slowly in three general stages: early or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), moderate and severe. Because AD affects people in different ways, each person may experience symptoms — or progress through the stages — differently. On average, a person with AD lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.

An early diagnosis of AD is important because it can help determine if the symptoms a patient is experiencing are genuinely due to AD or some other conditions that can be curable or managed with different interventions.  Unfortunately, accurately diagnosing AD in people with MCI is challenging as data suggest that only about 40% of people diagnosed with MCI develop AD over 10 years.

SYNAPS Dx’s DISCERN™ is the world’s first easy-to-administer test that can accurately identify AD at the earliest stages of onset by testing for the presence of three key proprietary biomarkers that are unique to AD.

Why Early Diagnosis Matters

An early AD diagnosis allows patients to start clinical interventions sooner, saving time, money, and the despair of caregivers and patients not knowing what is happening medically. Early diagnosis also gives patients the chance to have a say in their care.  Moreover, newer disease modifying treatments for AD are indicated for MCI or early-stage dementia, where the progression to AD is less clear and diagnosis is less accurate. Now that there are more treatment options becoming available, having an accurate diagnosis of AD earlier in the disease is of greater importance.

Primary healthcare professionals play an important role in recognizing individuals at risk, suggesting lifestyle changes that can prevent or slow down the disease and making a timely diagnosis and initiating treatment that can significantly delay its progression. Early intervention is the optimal strategy because it preserves the patient’s level of function for longer.

Until the launch of DISCERN™, only autopsy findings at death provided a definitive diagnosis of AD in people who lived with dementia. What’s more, AD often co-develops with other age-related neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and different types of dementias.

Value of Accurate AD Test 

DISCERN™ is designed to accurately assess the loss of synaptic activity in the brain, where memories lie, due to AD. The loss of synaptic activity eventually leads to loss in memory, language, reasoning and social behavior, which are common in those with AD.

Our assays have demonstrated >95% sensitivity and specificity. Giving patients and families the answers they need enables providers to make a conclusive diagnosis and informed treatment decisions and allows payers to establish protocols and prior authorizations for prescribing and reimbursing treatment. It also helps pharmaceutical companies identify appropriate clinical trial participants.

Think of DISCERN™ as a tool to manage appropriate patient access to future approved therapies, in addition to the clinical and economic benefits of improved early, accurate diagnosis.

Posted by
Michael Tunkelrott
Author Bio
Michael Tunkelrott is Vice President of Marketing at SYNAPS Dx.

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