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Findings could spoil current approaches to an Alzheimer's cure

April 1, 2010
by root
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In a new study published in Biological Psychiatry, by Elsevier, researchers have related findings that are emerging from brain imaging scans to changes in the function of brain circuits. Using functional connectivity brain mapping, they found that amyloid plaques-beta protein deposits considered one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease-are present in the brains of people with Alzheimer's as well as some healthy elderly people who do not show behavioral evidence of the disease.

Researchers found that the healthy participants with brain amyloid deposits were associated with compromise of the connections between important brain regions involved in learning and memory even though their memory functions were not markedly impaired. Similar disruptions in brain connections were found in individuals with Alzheimer's.

“This elegant study illustrates that amyloid plaques are only a component of the disease process in Alzheimer's disease, in that that there are many people who have the plaques but not the disease. These data raise a number of important questions,” researchers said. “What is missing from the disease process or what protective factors are present among people who have amyloid deposition in plaques but who appear to be without Alzheimer's disease? If the amyloid plaques were eliminated in the healthy elderly, would their brain circuitry function normalize?”

These questions are important and timely as a number of approaches for reducing brain amyloid beta protein levels are currently being tested, including antibodies that might bind to and promote the clearance of amyloid beta protein as well as drugs that inhibit amyloid beta protein synthesis. If amyloid beta protein is only part of the biology of Alzheimer's, it may be difficult to predict the extent to which these novel treatments might work, researchers said.

Omnicare reports bulging profits; nursing homes pay $14 million

Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest nursing home pharmacy, presented the financial results for its fourth quarter, reporting nearly tripled profits compared to the previous year after settling fraud allegations with the U.S. Justice Department as recently as last November. Fourth quarter profits rose to $80 million, compared to $27.6 million a year earlier, the company said.

Omnicare paid a $98 million settlement in 2009 to end a Justice Department investigation that alleged the company engaged in kickback schemes with two Atlanta nursing homes involving pharmacy service contracts. Also, the company allegedly solicited and received kickbacks from Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in exchange for agreeing to recommend that physicians prescribe Risperdal, a J&J antipsychotic drug, to nursing home patients.

The Gerontologist reports that in 2007, only 24.4% of nursing homes containing 20 beds or more offered CNA training and certification programs, which was down from 37.6% a decade before

The inaugural Palliative Wound Care Conference, featuring active practitioners and experts, has been scheduled to take place May 13-14 in Cincinnati (http://www.hopeofhealing.org)

Meanwhile, the two nursing homes-owned by Mariner Health Care, Inc., and SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC-and their principals have paid a $14 million settlement for their alleged involvement in the kickback scheme.

According to the terms of the settlement agreement, the nursing home chains and their principals paid $7.8 million to the federal government and $6.1 million to certain states that lost Medicaid funds as a result of the fraud.

Adam Resnick, a Chicago-based healthcare entrepreneur, exposed the scheme in a “qui tam” (whistleblower) lawsuit during 2006 in a Boston federal district court. After investigating the allegations, the government intervened in the case in December 2008.

Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are entitled to a reward of 15% to 25% of the amount the government recovers as a result of their qui tam lawsuits. The reward in this case hasn't been decided yet.

Long-Term Living 2010 April;59(4):12

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