Neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, is the fastest-growing cause of death in the world. Misinformation and mismanagement are contributing to the global epidemic.
Alzheimer’s disease alone is killing 50-100 million people now and spreading fast. Experts suggest that the prevalence of brain disease will quadruple by 2050, if not sooner. Meanwhile, death rates from heart disease and cancer are dropping globally due to advances in nutrition, medicine and disease management.
The epidemic is worse in some regions of the world than others. Finland and Iceland are at the top of the list. The United States is third on the list, where deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent from 2000 to 2013. Over the same timeframe, deaths attributed to heart disease decreased 14 percent.
The epidemic is more widespread than anyone knows. Physicians are withholding millions of diagnoses from patients and their families. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, physicians in the U.S. only inform 45 percent of patients about their Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The same suppression is likely at work in most countries. Meanwhile, millions more go undiagnosed and misdiagnosed.
At a cost of $236 billion a year, Alzheimer’s disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. The disease saw a 15.7 percent bump over 2014 numbers–the largest increase of all major causes of death. It accounted for at least 108,227 deaths in the U.S. alone in 2015. A similar pattern is emerging around the globe–some regions much more than others. In the U.S. alone, nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. And these costs will only continue to increase as baby boomers age, soaring to more than $1 trillion in 2050.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease, also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we all are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence and reckless disregard for public health.
TSE is a spectrum disease also known as prion disease. The spectrum includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and an extremely aggressive version known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Prusiner claims that all forms of TSE are caused by infectious proteins known as prions (PREE-ons). The prion spectrum varies in severity. It also varies depending on which region of the brain is impacted first. When the presenting symptom is memory loss, the diagnoses flow along the following chart.
Researchers have more questions than answers, but we know that neurotoxins, head trauma and genetics can all trigger neurodegenerative disease. Unfortunately, that’s where our knowledge gets fuzzy. Most diagnoses are a process of elimination. After eliminating all other possibilities, the guesswork begins:
- If the patient has a memory disorder, it’s Alzheimer’s disease.
- If they have a movement disorder, it’s Parkinson’s disease.
- If the patient shows both symptoms, flip a coin.
- If they ever had a concussion, it’s possibly CTE.
- If the person is incapacitated, it’s Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
Prion disease causes memory loss, impaired coordination, and abnormal movements. It’s not known which patients with brain disease become infectious or when, but both CJD and Alzheimer’s patients are being mismanaged. Informed neurologists won’t touch patients with these symptoms because of the risk of transmission. They are making diagnoses from across the room.
“Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease behaves like Alzheimer’s disease on steroids,” said Dr. Jennifer Majersik, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Utah.
Experts claim that at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are not Alzheimer’s disease. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones. Millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of patients and caregivers are being misinformed, misguided and exposed to an aggressive disease. Misdiagnosis and misinformation regarding prion disease is a matter of life and death. The mismanagement doesn’t end here.
According to neuroscientists Dr. Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are not Alzheimer’s disease. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones. Millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Millions of patients and caregivers are being misinformed, misguided and exposed to an aggressive disease. Misdiagnosis and misinformation regarding prion disease is a matter of life and death. The mismanagement doesn’t end here.
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