The AOA is collaborating with Eli Lilly and Company to develop a pilot project focused on the early detection of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly is investing both expertise and over $100,000 in the project, which will include the development of an AOA Dementia Diagnosis and Detection Toolkit, designed to assist and educate physicians on different diagnostic tools and resources for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Eli Lilly and the AOA agree it is important to start the conversation early regarding Alzheimer’s disease,” says Kenya McRae, JD, PhD, the AOA’s vice president of research and development. “So often, that’s put off, whether it’s on the physician’s side, the caregiver’s side or the patient’s side. It’s just not a topic that many people want to discuss because we know it’s a terminal illness.”
However, there are benefits to early detection and diagnosis, which is why it’s crucial for conversations to start early, McRae says.
Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is the No. 6 cause of death in the U.S., and as baby boomers advance in age, the number of Americans with the disease is poised to increase sharply in the coming years.
The one-year project runs from November 2015 to November 2016. The AOA and Lilly will first assemble an advisory panel composed of physicians, patients and Lilly representatives. This panel will be responsible for developing the toolkit. In addition to an educational component, the toolkit will contain resources for physicians, caregivers and patients, such as a self-screening tool.
When the toolkit is ready, it will be provided to select physicians for feedback. Physician response and other outcomes of deploying the toolkit will be tracked and evaluated. The AOA plans to present the preliminary results of the pilot project at OMED 2016. When the project is done, Lilly and the AOA will discuss the possibility of making the toolkit available to physicians nationwide.
Lilly and AOA agreed to this collaborative effort recognizing that many DOs practice in primary care specialties; they are on the front lines of diagnosing and caring for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, McRae says.
Alzheimer’s disease is not curable, but several drugs on the market can positively impact the disease’s symptoms in roughly half of the patients who take them, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Several pharmaceutical companies, including Lilly, are also developing new drugs to slow or treat Alzheimer’s disease, but the toolkit will not be focused on promoting specific drugs, McRae stresses. Instead, it will be centered on guiding physicians to get patients the help and resources they need early to preserve quality of life as long as possible.
“We have an aging population,” McRae says. “Rather than sit on the sidelines and wait, Lilly and AOA want to help physicians detect Alzheimer’s disease at the early stages.”
The AOA’s research strategy
In developing its research strategy, the AOA recently identified five research focus areas, one of which is chronic diseases and conditions. This collaboration with Lilly fits perfectly with the AOA’s research objectives, McRae says.
The AOA research department will soon be requesting applications from DOs with expertise in dementia who would like to serve on the project’s advisory panel. Those who want to apply now can email a CV and a short biography explaining their interest in dementia and Alzheimer’s treatment to McRae at firstname.lastname@example.org.