Lifestyle & Belief

New Alzheimer's scan approved by FDA


A woman, suffering from Alzheimer's desease, holds the hand of a relative on March 18, 2011 in a retirement house in Angervilliers, eastern France.


Sebastien Bozon

A new Alzheimer's scan has been approved by the FDA, which may allow doctors to detect the disease earlier and more effectively, the Wall Street Journal reported

The test, developed by Eli Lilly & Co, scans the brain for the presence of proteins related to Alzheimer's disease. It was approved Friday by the Food and Drug Administration.

"There are a lot of patients who have been groping in the dark for some time now, and here's an opportunity to shine a light in their brain and find out if there's amyloid or not," Dr Daniel Skovronsky, who developed the test for Lilly, told the Journal.

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The scan uses a radioactive dye called Amyvid, which binds to beta amyloid, the toxic protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, Reuters reported. Doctors are then able to see the plaque on a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

If the scan is negative, "that gives the clinician a clue that Alzheimer's is less likely to be the cause of those symptoms," said Dr Skovronsky. Doctors can then look for other potential causes of the patient's memory decline, he told the Journal. 

Last March, an FDA panel rejected Amyvid, amid concerns that doctors might have trouble interpreting scans of the plaque, Reuters reported. Eli Lilly said it has since worked to identify better training methods to ensure doctors use the test effectively, according to Reuters. 

Lilly, which will sell the drug through its unit Avid Radiopharmaceuticals in limited quantities starting in June, also said the test should not be used to diagnose Alzheimer's, because brain plaque can be a sign of other conditions or occur naturally in older people with normal mental states, the Journal reported.

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"The approval of Amyvid offers physicians a tool that, in conjunction with other diagnostic evaluations, can provide information to help physicians evaluate their patients," said the company's Friday statement.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, which affects more than 35 million people worldwide and slowly eliminates memory with age.