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NIH Record  
Vol. LXIV, No. 13
  June 22, 2012
NIH Celebrates Minority Health Month
Experiencing, Observing Abuse Is Linked to Lower Childhood IQ
Therapeutics Discovery Initiative Adds Industry Partners, Compounds
NIH Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Minority Researchers Network Going Strong After 10 Years
New Interagency Pain
Research Committee Holds First Meeting
‘East-West Ballers’ Grab Basketball Tourney Crown
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Researchers, Advocates Gather to Accelerate Alzheimer’s Research

NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes at the AD Summit

NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes at the AD Summit

"We are at an exceptional moment scientifically for Alzheimer’s,” declared NIH director Dr. Francis Collins before more than 500 researchers and advocates gathered on campus May 14-15 for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit: Path to Treatment and Prevention. Significant progress has been made, but much more needs to be done, he told the group. “This is not about just celebrating where we’ve come from, but rolling up our sleeves to see where we can go,” he said.

Collins’ remarks came as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited the summit to unveil a new National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. The plan, mandated by the January 2011 National Alzheimer’s Project Act, sets forth 5 goals for Alzheimer’s research, care and services; the first goal is development of effective prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.

Harm Also Likely
Late-Life Care of Frail Elderly Is Often Capricious, Teno Says
One of the most fraught decisions in the medical care of elderly patients with advanced dementia is whether to insert a feeding tube or not. Those unfamiliar with the situation are apt to think, “Feeding is good. Go for it.”

But for experts like Dr. Joan Teno, professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine and a 20-year veteran of hospice care, that decision is not only often ambiguously reached, but also is demonstrably harmful to patients, resulting in earlier death and higher rates of infection, especially bed sores.

Speaking to the NIH end-of-life palliative care special interest group on May 17, Teno, an NIA grantee, presented data from recent studies showing how haphazard care is for this population nationally. In Los Angeles County alone, in hospitals only a mile apart, the feeding tube insertion rate varied from 3.3 per 100 to 13.2 per 100 in patients with similar diagnoses.

More disturbing, and obvious only to a physician experienced enough and compassionate enough to study such a disadvantaged, twilight population, FT insertion often has no benefit whatsoever, merely prolonging misery for the patient and his/her family. “The risk of tube insertion itself often outweighs potential benefits,” Teno said.