December 8, 2020
Flat-Earth Criticism of Alzheimer’s Success
Alzheimer’s disease has been a scourge since it was first described in 1906 and is destined to kill 45 million of the currently living Americans if we do not intervene effectively (for comparison, this is about 100 times the number of Americans predicted to die of COVID-19). Over 400 drug trials have failed. The need for all of us to explore every option available in order to mitigate the scourge, and save millions of lives, is obvious.
Why, then, would the first published successes be criticized? In 2014, I published the first examples of the reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and pre-Alzheimer’s (mild cognitive impairment, MCI), using a novel protocol translated from our lab’s three decades of research. Although this protocol has led to repeated success documented in follow-up publications, a recent article from a doctor with no success criticized the protocol — this is like criticizing Wilbur and Orville Wright for not staying up in the air long enough, while you are building lead balloons.
So why, with the dire need for anything that may help, such criticism? Well, a quick look at the source is revealing: first, the reporter — even a junior high school reporter knows to report both sides of a story! A one-sided “report” is an advertisement, not a news story. Apparently, this reporter is unaware of that since she never contacted my colleagues or me — it is not exactly New York Times-quality reporting.
Next, the doctor: whereas my laboratory group has published over 220 peer-reviewed biomedical research papers, the doctor who criticized our work has not published a single paper on Alzheimer’s as the lead or the senior author! Perhaps it is no surprise that the same doctor has been given very poor reviews by her patients.
So, a reporter who lacks reporting skills, and a doctor who lacks doctoring skills, and has contributed nothing to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, clearly do not understand what we are doing — this is not in any way surprising. Indeed, innovation in medicine has a lamentable history: as one of many examples, the treatment of scurvy was re-discovered and re-rejected for centuries, leading to thousands upon thousands of needless deaths. As another example, the doctor who first pointed out that handwashing could prevent deaths from infection was committed to an insane asylum for his “radical” view, where he was beaten and died, ironically, from an infection.
Thus, I can understand why someone with no history of innovation or constructive contribution might fail to understand the approach we have taken since it is fundamentally different from all previous approaches to cognitive decline. Instead of pre-determining a uniform, overly simplistic and ineffective treatment like a single drug, we start by identifying the actual contributors to cognitive decline, which are different from person to person. Since there are dozens and dozens of potential contributors, and each person typically has at least several different ones, the protocol we developed is a personalized, precision medicine protocol that targets the drivers of the decline (outlined in the book, The End of Alzheimer’s Program).
The criticism of our successful reports demonstrates a lack of understanding of the process by which advances occur in medicine. When the standard of care has nothing to offer, translating laboratory findings to new clinical practices is critical and typically occurs in several steps: often, a single case study is followed by several anecdotal reports, and then a clinical trial — which is exactly what we have done. Our first clinical trial will be completed in December and should be published next year.
In comparison, look carefully at what the critic is saying: that it is better to wait and allow thousands to die while continuing research that has produced nothing, rather than offering hope from published results. For many with affected family members, this would be tantamount to abuse.
The entire medical system is in a state of transition, and the approach we pioneered is the future: identifying the underlying contributors to cognitive decline, then targeting those specifically, rather than attempting to treat with an ineffective therapeutic that is unrelated to the cause of the cognitive decline.
There will always be those who resist progress, deny innovation, even when the standard of care has nothing to offer. So, we hear you, Dr. Hellmuth, when you say the Earth is flat, the Emperor is fully-clothed, global warming is a hoax, and despite the published data, it is simply impossible to do anything about cognitive decline.