What is the situation of early Alzheimer's diagnostics in Germany?

Together with Lilly Deutschland GmbH, a research team from Rostock is conducting a nationwide online survey among memory clinics and neurological and psychiatric practices

Rostock/Germany, July 8, 2024: With the support of the pharmaceutical company Lilly Deutschland GmbH, DZNE is ascertaining whether and how biomarker-based Alzheimer's diagnostics are currently being used in Germany. Early detection by biomarkers is a prerequisite for the use of new promising agents against Alzheimer's, which are currently in the approval process in the EU. In addition, non-pharmacological treatments can have a positive impact on the progression of Alzheimer's disease if it is diagnosed at an early stage. Against this background, DZNE is conducting a nationwide online survey among memory clinics as well as neurological and psychiatric practices. The project will run for one and a half years, with Lilly covering the costs of 150,000 euros.

There are currently around 1.8 million people with dementia in Germany. The majority of them are affected by Alzheimer's disease. So-called amyloid – a protein that accumulates in the brain – has long been considered a potential target for treatment of this most common form of dementia and also as a diagnostic marker. In fact, biomarker-based early diagnosis has been recommended in the newly developed German "S3 guideline on dementia" since the end of 2023. "However, this diagnostic method is not yet the medical standard in Germany, as it is complex to implement," says Dr. Kilimann, scientist at DZNE’s Rostock/Greifswald site and neurologist at the University Medical Centre Rostock. He is leading the current study, for which DZNE has signed a cooperation agreement with Lilly. "Biomarkers enable a high degree of diagnostic certainty and thus early access to counseling, non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapy," Kilimann adds.

Drugs in approval process

So-called amyloid antibodies are promising novel agents against Alzheimer's disease. They are not yet on the market in the EU, but two of these drugs are currently undergoing the approval process at the European Medicines Agency EMA. "If approval is given, biomarkers will play an important role in the treatment decision. That is because antibody therapy has relevant side effects and is only suitable and promising for some patients, which is why careful patient selection is important," Kilimann clarifies.

Through an online survey in memory clinics and neurological and psychiatric practices starting in summer, Kilimann's research team aims to gain a detailed picture of the use of biomarkers in Alzheimer's diagnostics. "We want to find out to what extent the German healthcare system is prepared for the introduction of antibody therapies," explains Stefanie Köhler, a DZNE healthcare scientist and research associate in the project. “For this, we are recording whether and under which conditions biomarker-supported early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is already being used in everyday medical practice in Germany. In this way, we intend to identify obstacles and opportunities for the use of biomarker-based diagnostics and antibody therapies in routine healthcare."

About the Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen, (German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases): DZNE is a research institute for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS, which are associated with dementia, movement disorders and other serious health impairments. To date, there are no cures for these diseases, which represent an enormous burden for countless patients, their families and the healthcare system. The aim of DZNE is to develop and translate into practice novel strategies for prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment. DZNE comprises ten sites across Germany and collaborates with numerous universities, university hospitals, research centers and other institutions in Germany and throughout the world. It is state-funded and a member of the Helmholtz Association and of the German Centers for Health Research.

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Dr. Christine Knust
Internal Communications / Press
+49 228 43302-264

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