Physicians Say Rite Aid’s Early Alzheimer’s Detection Test Can Cause Needless Fear

A test being used at Rite Aid stores to test for early warning signs of Alzheimer’s may be doing more harm than good, some medical professionals say.

Physicians are warning that the test can be inaccurate and that people who test poorly may spend time and money worrying about a disease they simply don’t have, Bloomberg reports.

More than 4,000 Ride Aid stores, in conjunction with the non-profit group Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, have made the 5- to 10-minute oral and written test available through the company’s “wellness65+Wednesday” events slated for the month of June.

The tests work by asking patients to remember three unrelated words, draw the numbers of a clock into an empty circle and then draw hands to a specific time on a clock. Finally, the patient is asked to recall the three words again.

Officials with the AFA say the tests raise awareness and can spur consumers to see a doctor early. However, medical professionals in the neurology field, such as Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota David Knopman, say performing such a test should be done in a professional medical setting.

“Teaching someone how to perform a cognitive assessment is not a trivial manner,” Knopman tells Bloomberg. “It takes some training and background in knowing about neurology.”

Knopman is a member of the scientific advisory board of Alzheimer’s Association which does not support the Rite Aid tests.

Consumers can fail the test for a number of reasons not associated with Alzheimer’s, including sleep deprivation or depression. Additionally, Knopman says a busy pharmacy could make it hard for consumers to concentrate while being tested.

Still, if consumers take into consideration that the tests may be inaccurate, they can still serve a greater purpose: raising awareness about the disease.

Marsel Mesulam, director of cognitive neurology and Alzheimer’s disease at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University tells Bloomberg the “great advantage” of the Rite Aid event is that it could spur others to get tested, something he says should be done routinely like blood pressure checks.

“It’s like if you feel that you have a problem with diabetes or blood pressure, I don’t think your next door pharmacy is a place to handle this problem in a systematic way,” he says. “Anyone who feels like it, should go, as long as it’s understood that these tests require a lot of interpretation.”

Alzheimer’s is currently the most diagnosed form of dementia, with about 5 million people suffering from the disease in the United States. In March, researchers reported that the disease could be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths each year.

Rite Aid Memory Test Triggers Needless Fear of Alzheimer’s, Doctors Say [Bloomberg]

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  1. SingleMaltGeek says:

    Even a specialist can’t tell if a person has Alzheimer’s for sure without examining their brain tissue under a microscope. For obvious reasons, that is usually isn’t done to living patients, it’s usually used to confirm the diagnosis during an autopsy.

    As the article says, the Clock Test is a common test of cognitive function, but it doesn’t mean a person has Alzheimer’s Disease at all. It is a good measure of whether someone should undergo a more thorough check with their doctor, though.