"Today, being able to obtain a better diagnosis of AD is useful," he added. "We already do have symptomatic treatments right now. A good diagnostic test would enable us to find out accurately if those treatments are indicated, which would save money in the long run because people who don't have AD won't be getting the medications they don't need."
In addition to the therapeutic advances that could derive from a more focused diagnostic tool, Small says the work of his team has already influenced public policy. "The data obtained in the FDG-PET studies we've done over the years helped to change Medicare policy. In September 2004, after several years of presenting data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, they changed the guidelines for reimbursement. Now Medicare will pay for a PET scan to rule out AD. We're hoping that this new development will lead to further changes. Siemens is proceeding with additional studies, and we're helping them move forward on that. In the next couple of years, this technology should be available to clinicians. We're also working with companies that have compounds that they are testing for potential disease-modifying effects on AD."