Spare us the false hope about Alzheimer's

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Here we go again: This week saw the release of yet another breathless study claiming the cure for Alzheimer's disease is getting closer — maybe.

The latest incantation is a report in Nature Genetics. This entry touts an international study of the disease that may help us unlock a cure. Unless, of course, it doesn't.

It seems like we get treated to at least one or two of these “important breakthrough” studies every month, sometimes more. And the plot seldom varies: Earnest investigators working countless hours have issued a report that may bring us closer to a cure. Then, tucked somewhere in the back is a mention that, ahem, more research is needed.

Thanks for the update. Self-fulfilling prophecy, Alzheimer's investigation is thy name.

Don't get me wrong. I realize Alzheimer's is a terrible, terrible disease. It robs its victims of their memories and personalities. There are 5 million people in our nation currently afflicted, and the numbers going forward do not look good. Alzheimer's truly is a national tragedy. And that's part of the reason why a constant deluge of hyperventilating updates is not just annoying.

For despite what we are sometimes being led to believe, each new investigation does not necessarily bring us closer to a cure. And until one provably does, it's just another study. So can we put the “important breakthrough” rhetoric on hold until, well, there actually is an important breakthrough?

These reports may not be intentionally cynical or misleading. Regardless, they are giving false hope to millions of people. Haven't those folks suffered enough already?

John O'Connor is Editorial Director at McKnight's.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


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