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Dr. Andrew Frank

Preparing for Health Systems Change for Alzheimer’s Disease Care


More Canadians are living with dementia than ever before, and Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for a significant proportion of dementia diagnoses, is also on the rise as the population ages.

With recent progress in disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for Alzheimer’s disease, experts are looking ahead to the potential challenges the Canadian health care system will face when new therapeutics arrive.

Dr. Andrew Frank, cognitive neurologist and Investigator at the Bruyère Memory Program, believes that awareness and early detection are key.

“We are seeing FDA approval in the United States, and Europe is in the midst of evaluating Lecanemab,” said Dr. Frank, referencing one of the two medications that have shown to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in recent clinical trials. “The research is showing that the greatest benefit is when the medication is taken in the earliest stages of the disease. This makes early detection and diagnosis a vital part of our strategy if these drugs are approved in Canada.”

Limitations in public awareness, and the continued stigma around dementia, are currently barriers to timely identification of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With promising new treatments on the horizon, a Canadian Dementia Expert Group outlined education, advocacy, and awareness as several of their key recommendations for health systems change.

“This could be a big change for Alzheimer’s treatment in Canada, and it speaks to the fact that we should all be taking our memory and brain health seriously,” said Dr. Frank, who co-chaired the Canadian Dementia Expert Group. “If there is worry about memory changes in yourself or your loved one, asking your primary care provider about memory testing and getting checked is the best way to take action.”

While Canada does not yet have a national strategy for the introduction of any potentially-approved DMTs, experts emphasized the need for making a diagnosis through biomarkers (which demonstrate the abnormal protein accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease), and effective safety monitoring for eligible patients.

Health System Change for Alzheimer’s Disease-Modifying Therapies in Canada: Beginning the Discussion was published in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences.

In the news:
New Alzheimer's drugs mark long-awaited progress as cases are expected to skyrocket
Ottawa Citizen - January 23, 2024