That using linear decline to develop drugs for the condition might be flawed.
The rate of decline in function in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
Division of Geriatric Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Functional impairment over time is a necessary condition for the diagnosis of dementia. Increasingly, it is recognized that rates of decline may not follow a linear progression. This variability may indicate that dementia in Alzheimer's disease represents disease rather than inevitable aging. In order to investigate decline in function in dementia, we developed a model of the rate of decline in functions in Alzheimer's disease and in other dementias in comparison with normal aging.
Secondary analysis of a cross-sectional, representative sample of Canadians aged 65 and older (N = 2,914) was performed. We calculated a measure identified as an impairment index, defined as the probability of the occurrences of an impairment or disability in a structured clinical examination.
The rate of functional decline varies for different diagnostic groups and increases with severity of the disease. The distribution for the rate of decline in dementia is distinct from that in aging without cognitive impairment. In those without cognitive impairment, the distribution is exponential. Elderly persons with dementia of any type showed a log-normal distribution.
The difference in the distributions between aging with and without dementia likely reflects fundamental differences in the processes of decline in functions in the two groups. This suggests that the declines seen in persons with dementia are distinct from normal aging. It also has implications for the testing of antidementia medications, in that modeling treatment effects based on an assumption of linear decline is likely to be flawed.