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A first for the NHS, scan that can spot Alzheimer's.

david kingstrom By david kingstrom | December 15, 2013 | United Kingdom

David Cameron announced that Britain will be the first place in the world where the revolutionary technique will be available for free.

The patients will benefit from a new brain scan that can help doctors confirm or rule out a diagnosis of  Alzheimer’s disease.

The test will mean that, for the first time, doctors will be able to definitively rule out Alzheimer’s in some patients for five years. 

The test – which costs £810 per patient – involves giving the patient a tiny amount of a radioactive chemical called Amyvid which binds to the tell-tale plaques in the brain of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

It means the patient will not be given potentially harmful treatments if they don’t need them.

The Prime Minister  hailed  the new treatment as he hosted a major international summit in London  on dementia, which he  described  as "the key health challenge of  this generation".

There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK, and about two thirds of those are Alzheimer’s. By 2021, more than a million people will have dementia. It is one of the main causes of disability in old  age, ahead of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Mr Cameron said: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re in London or Los Angeles, in rural India or urban Japan – this disease steals lives, it wrecks families, it breaks hearts and that is why all of us here are so utterly determined to beat it”. "I want December 11th 2013 to go down as the day that the global fight-back began".

Speaking to scientists and ministers from the other G8 countries, Mr Cameron pledged  to double the amount the government gives to dementia research to more than £100million by 2025.

The Amyvid test – developed by US drugs firm Lilly – has previously been used elsewhere in the world, but only through private health schemes.

The first British patient to benefit will be scanned  at  Charing Cross Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, in London.

Dr Richard Perry, consultant  neurologist at the trust, said it could help hundreds of people every year. "For people who have memory problems and who are concerned about them, knowing the cause is the first step in getting the right sort of treatment.   Until now, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has not been always straightforward because we haven’t had a simple test. A positive scan in the right context could support a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but you would have to look at a person’s other symptoms as well".

  • Tags:   NHS Alzheimer David Cameron Britain radioactive chemical_Amyvid Prime Minister London dementia UK Mr Cameron Los Angeles India Japan Prime Minister David Cameron G8 countries Amyvid_test US_drugs_firm_Lilly state-funded health system first British patient Charing Cross Hospital Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust Dr Richard Perry neurologist
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