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The Rise of Pseudomedicine for Dementia and Brain Health

By January 25, 2019Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND

Colleagues at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center published a timely critique in JAMA on a concerning and increasing practice in the United States. “Pseudomedicine” is a practice whereby qualified healthcare professionals prescribe supplements or other therapies that are not covered by insurance, and therefore require cash payments, for personal financial gain. Pseudomedicine is especially problematic among older patients and family members concerned about memory loss and desperate for effective therapies to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Other examples of pseudomedicine include recommendations for brain healthy diet plans and exercise programs, which are viewed by many as standard, but in these cases come at a cost to the patient. Here in Southern California, there are also a large number of stem cell “clinics” that circumvent FDA regulations and offer unproven — even untested — treatments at substantial costs to patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions.

In their article, Hellmuth and colleagues outline a few steps that can be taken to try to address this rising problem. Among them is the need for experts to offer honest scientific interpretation of claims such as those outlined above. At UCI MIND, we take this responsibility seriously (e.g., OC Register Letter to the Editor). If you have questions about claims from individuals offering therapies that stop or reverse memory or cognitive problems, especially at out-of-pocket costs, consider attending a lecture by one of our faculty (calendar >) or tune in to our new Facebook LIVE series @UCIrvineMIND, “Ask the Doc: Alzheimer’s Research Today.”