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1.  Genetic Predisposition to Increased Blood Cholesterol and Triglyceride Lipid Levels and Risk of Alzheimer Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001713.
In this study, Proitsi and colleagues use a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset Alzheimer's Disease (LOAD) and find that genetic predisposition to increased plasma cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Although altered lipid metabolism has been extensively implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD) through cell biological, epidemiological, and genetic studies, the molecular mechanisms linking cholesterol and AD pathology are still not well understood and contradictory results have been reported. We have used a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset AD (LOAD) and test the hypothesis that genetically raised lipid levels increase the risk of LOAD.
Methods and Findings
We included 3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 older individuals without LOAD, and 4,989 individuals from the general population from six genome wide studies drawn from a white population (total n = 10,578). We constructed weighted genotype risk scores (GRSs) for four blood lipid phenotypes (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-c], low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-c], triglycerides, and total cholesterol) using well-established SNPs in 157 loci for blood lipids reported by Willer and colleagues (2013). Both full GRSs using all SNPs associated with each trait at p<5×10−8 and trait specific scores using SNPs associated exclusively with each trait at p<5×10−8 were developed. We used logistic regression to investigate whether the GRSs were associated with LOAD in each study and results were combined together by meta-analysis. We found no association between any of the full GRSs and LOAD (meta-analysis results: odds ratio [OR] = 1.005, 95% CI 0.82–1.24, p = 0.962 per 1 unit increase in HDL-c; OR = 0.901, 95% CI 0.65–1.25, p = 0.530 per 1 unit increase in LDL-c; OR = 1.104, 95% CI 0.89–1.37, p = 0.362 per 1 unit increase in triglycerides; and OR = 0.954, 95% CI 0.76–1.21, p = 0.688 per 1 unit increase in total cholesterol). Results for the trait specific scores were similar; however, the trait specific scores explained much smaller phenotypic variance.
Conclusions
Genetic predisposition to increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk. The observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels and LOAD risk could therefore be attributed to the result of biological pleiotropy or could be secondary to LOAD. Limitations of this study include the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS, biases in case-control ascertainment, and the limitations implicit to Mendelian randomization studies. Future studies should focus on larger LOAD datasets with longitudinal sampled peripheral lipid measures and other markers of lipid metabolism, which have been shown to be altered in LOAD.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, about 44 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia mainly affects older people and, because people are living longer, experts estimate that more than 135 million people will have dementia by 2050. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this type of dementia, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. The earliest sign of Alzheimer disease is usually increasing forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, affected individuals gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities such as dressing. They may become anxious or aggressive or begin to wander. They may also eventually lose control of their bladder and of other physical functions. At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer disease although some of its symptoms can be managed with drugs. Most people with the disease are initially cared for at home by relatives and other unpaid carers, but many patients end their days in a care home or specialist nursing home.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several lines of evidence suggest that lipid metabolism (how the body handles cholesterol and other fats) is altered in patients whose Alzheimer disease develops after the age of 60 years (late onset Alzheimer disease, LOAD). In particular, epidemiological studies (observational investigations that examine the patterns and causes of disease in populations) have found an association between high amounts of cholesterol in the blood in midlife and the risk of LOAD. However, observational studies cannot prove that abnormal lipid metabolism (dyslipidemia) causes LOAD. People with dyslipidemia may share other characteristics that cause both dyslipidemia and LOAD (confounding) or LOAD might actually cause dyslipidemia (reverse causation). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to examine whether lifetime changes in lipid metabolism caused by genes have a causal impact on LOAD risk. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if dyslipidemia causes LOAD, genetic variants that affect lipid metabolism should be associated with an altered risk of LOAD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated whether genetic predisposition to raised lipid levels increased the risk of LOAD in 10,578 participants (3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 elderly people without LOAD, and 4,989 population controls) using data collected in six genome wide studies looking for gene variants associated with Alzheimer disease. The researchers constructed a genotype risk score (GRS) for each participant using genetic risk markers for four types of blood lipids on the basis of the presence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of gene variant) in their DNA. When the researchers used statistical methods to investigate the association between the GRS and LOAD among all the study participants, they found no association between the GRS and LOAD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the genetic predisposition to raised blood levels of four types of lipid is not causally associated with LOAD risk. The accuracy of this finding may be affected by several limitations of this study, including the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS and the validity of several assumptions that underlie all Mendelian randomization studies. Moreover, because all the participants in this study were white, these findings may not apply to people of other ethnic backgrounds. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that the observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels in the blood and variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD risk could be secondary to variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD, a possibility that can be investigated by studying blood lipid levels and other markers of lipid metabolism over time in large groups of patients with LOAD. Importantly, however, these findings provide new information about the role of lipids in LOAD development that may eventually lead to new therapeutic and public-health interventions for Alzheimer disease.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001713.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about Alzheimer's disease
The UK not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including personal experiences of living with Alzheimer's disease
The US not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and personal stories about dementia
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer disease associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to World Alzheimer Reports
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about Alzheimer's disease (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001713
PMCID: PMC4165594  PMID: 25226301
2.  Using Alzheimer’s disease as a model for genetic risk disclosure: Implications for personal genomics 
Clinical Genetics  2011;80(5):407-414.
Susceptibility testing for common, complex adult-onset diseases is projected to become more commonplace as the rapid pace of genomic discoveries continues, and evidence regarding the potential benefits and harms of such testing is needed to inform medical practice and health policy. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) testing for risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) provides a paradigm in which to examine the process and impact of disclosing genetic susceptibility for a prevalent, severe and incurable neurological condition. This review summarizes findings from a series of multi-site randomized clinical trials examining psychological and behavioral responses to various methods of genetic risk assessment for AD using APOE disclosure. We discuss challenges involved in disease risk estimation and communication and the extent to which participants comprehend and perceive utility in their genetic risk information. Findings on the psychological impact of test results are presented (e.g., distress), along with data on participants’ health behavior and insurance purchasing responses (e.g., long term care). Finally, we report comparisons of the safety and efficacy of intensive genetic counseling approaches to briefer models that emphasize streamlined processes and educational materials. The implications of these findings for the emerging field of personal genomics are discussed, with directions identified for future research.
doi:10.1111/j.1399-0004.2011.01739.x
PMCID: PMC3191239  PMID: 21696382
3.  Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease and its Impact on Insurance Purchasing Behavior 
Health affairs (Project Hope)  2005;24(2):483-490.
New genetic tests for adult-onset diseases raise concerns about possible adverse selection in insurance markets. To test for this behavior, 148 cognitively normal individuals participating in a randomized clinical trial of genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) were tracked for one year after risk assessment and APOE genotype disclosure. Although no significant differences were found in health, life, or disability insurance purchases, those who tested positive were 5.76 times more likely to have altered their long-term care insurance than individuals who did not receive APOE genotype disclosure. If genetic testing for AD risk assessment becomes common, it could trigger adverse selection in the long-term care insurance market.
doi:10.1377/hlthaff.24.2.483
PMCID: PMC1761120  PMID: 15757934
4.  First Diagnosis and Management of Incontinence in Older People with and without Dementia in Primary Care: A Cohort Study Using The Health Improvement Network Primary Care Database 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001505.
Robert Grant and colleagues used the British THIN primary care database to determine rates of first diagnosis of urinary and faecal incontinence among people aged 60–89 with dementia compared with those without dementia, and the use of medication or indwelling catheters for urinary incontinence in those with and without dementia.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Dementia is one of the most disabling and burdensome diseases. Incontinence in people with dementia is distressing, adds to carer burden, and influences decisions to relocate people to care homes. Successful and safe management of incontinence in people with dementia presents additional challenges. The aim of this study was to investigate the rates of first diagnosis in primary care of urinary and faecal incontinence among people aged 60–89 with dementia, and the use of medication or indwelling catheters for urinary incontinence.
Methods and Findings
We extracted data on 54,816 people aged 60–89 with dementia and an age-gender stratified sample of 205,795 people without dementia from 2001 to 2010 from The Health Improvement Network (THIN), a United Kingdom primary care database. THIN includes data on patients and primary care consultations but does not identify care home residents. Rate ratios were adjusted for age, sex, and co-morbidity using multilevel Poisson regression.
The rates of first diagnosis per 1,000 person-years at risk (95% confidence interval) for urinary incontinence in the dementia cohort, among men and women, respectively, were 42.3 (40.9–43.8) and 33.5 (32.6–34.5). In the non-dementia cohort, the rates were 19.8 (19.4–20.3) and 18.6 (18.2–18.9). The rates of first diagnosis for faecal incontinence in the dementia cohort were 11.1 (10.4–11.9) and 10.1 (9.6–10.6). In the non-dementia cohort, the rates were 3.1 (2.9–3.3) and 3.6 (3.5–3.8).
The adjusted rate ratio for first diagnosis of urinary incontinence was 3.2 (2.7–3.7) in men and 2.7 (2.3–3.2) in women, and for faecal incontinence was 6.0 (5.1–7.0) in men and 4.5 (3.8–5.2) in women. The adjusted rate ratio for pharmacological treatment of urinary incontinence was 2.2 (1.4–3.7) for both genders, and for indwelling urinary catheters was 1.6 (1.3–1.9) in men and 2.3 (1.9–2.8) in women.
Conclusions
Compared with those without a dementia diagnosis, those with a dementia diagnosis have approximately three times the rate of diagnosis of urinary incontinence, and more than four times the rate of faecal incontinence, in UK primary care. The clinical management of urinary incontinence in people with dementia with medication and particularly the increased use of catheters is concerning and requires further investigation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, more than 35 million people have dementia, brain disorders that are characterized by an irreversible decline in cognitive functions such as language and memory. Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia mainly affect older people and, because people are living longer than ever, experts estimate that by 2050 more than 115 million people will have dementia. The earliest sign of dementia is usually increasing forgetfulness but, as the disease progresses, people gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities such as dressing, they may become anxious or aggressive, and they may lose control of their bladder (urinary incontinence), bowels (bowel or fecal incontinence), and other physical functions. As a result, people with dementia require increasing amounts of care as the disease progresses. Relatives and other unpaid carers provide much of this care—two-thirds of people with dementia are cared for at home. However, many people with dementia end their days in a care or nursing home.
Why Was This Study Done?
Incontinence in people with dementia is distressing for the person with dementia and for their carers and often influences decisions to move individuals into care homes. However, little is known about the diagnosis and treatment of urinary and/or fecal incontinence among people with dementia living at home. This information is needed to help policymakers commission the services required for this section of society and insurers recognize the needs such patients have, as well as helping to raise clinicians' awareness of the issue. In this cohort study (an investigation that compares outcomes in groups of people with different characteristics), the researchers use data routinely collected from general practices (primary care) in the UK to determine the rate of first diagnosis of urinary and fecal incontinence in elderly patients with and without dementia and to find out whether a diagnosis of dementia affects the rate of use of drugs or of indwelling urinary catheters (tubes inserted into the bladder to drain urine from the body) for the treatment of urinary incontinence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data collected between 2001 and 2010 on incontinence for nearly 55,000 people aged 60–89 with a diagnosis of dementia (the dementia cohort) and for more than 200,000 individuals without a diagnosis of dementia (the non-dementia cohort) from The Health Improvement Network (THIN) primary care database, which includes anonymized consultation records from nearly 500 UK general practices. In the dementia cohort, the rates of first diagnosis of urinary incontinence were 42.3 and 33.5 per 1,000 person-years at risk among men and women, respectively. In the non-dementia cohort, the corresponding rates were 19.8 and 18.6. The rates of first diagnosis of fecal incontinence were 11.1 and 10.1 in the dementia cohort, and 3.1 and 3.6 in the non-dementia cohort among men and women, respectively. After adjusting for age, sex and other diseases, the adjusted rate ratio for the first diagnosis of urinary incontinence in people with dementia compared to people without dementia was 3.2 in men and 2.7 in women; for fecal incontinence, it was 6.0 in men and 4.5 in women; the adjusted rate ratio was 2.2 for both men and women for drug treatment of urinary incontinence and 1.6 in men and 2.3 in women for use of indwelling urinary catheters.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in primary care in the UK, dementia is associated with a three-fold higher rate of diagnosis of urinary incontinence and a greater than four-fold higher rate of diagnosis of fecal incontinence. Moreover, the authors suggest that some aspects of clinical management of urinary continence vary between people with and without dementia. In particular, the use of indwelling urinary catheters appears to be more common among people with dementia than among people without dementia, increasing the risk of infection. Thus, health care practitioners providing care for people with dementia may be prioritizing ease of management over risk avoidance, a possibility that requires further investigation. Although the accuracy of these findings is limited by certain aspects of the study design (for example, the THIN database does not identify which patients are living in care homes), they nevertheless suggest that policymakers and insurers involved in planning and providing services for people with dementia living at home need to provide high levels of help with incontinence, including the provision of advice and support for carers.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001505.
The UK not-for-profit organization Alzheimers Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including information on coping with incontinence and personal stories about living with dementia
The US not-for-profit organization Alzheimers Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and about incontinence, and personal stories about dementia
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about dementia, urinary incontinence, and bowel incontinence
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about dementia, urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence (in English and Spanish)
The International Continence Society and the International Consultation on Urological Diseases provide independent advice on products to manage incontinence
More information about the THIN database is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001505
PMCID: PMC3754889  PMID: 24015113
5.  Understanding the factors behind the decision to purchase varying coverage amounts of long-term care insurance. 
Health Services Research  1995;29(6):653-678.
OBJECTIVE. This article examines the factors related to an individual's decision to purchase a given amount of long-term care insurance coverage. DATA SOURCE AND STUDY SETTING. Primary data analyses were conducted on an estimation sample of 6,545 individuals who had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance policies in late 1990 and early 1991, and 1,248 individuals who had been approached by agents but chose not to buy such insurance. Companies contributing the two samples represented 45 percent of total sales during the study year. STUDY DESIGN. A two-stage logit-OLS (ordinary least squares) choice-based sampling model was used to examine the relationship between the expected value of purchased coverage and explanatory variables that included: demographic traits, attitudes, risk premium, nursing home bed supply, and Medicaid program configurations. DATA COLLECTION. Mail surveys were used to collect information about individuals' reasons for purchase, attitudes about long-term care, and demographic characteristics. Through an identification code, information on the policy designs chosen by these individuals was linked to each of the returned mail surveys. The response rate to the survey was about 60 percent. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS. The model explains about 47 percent of the variance in the dependent variable-expected value of policy coverage. Important variables negatively associated with the dependent variable include advancing age, being married, and having less than a college education. Variables positively related include being male, having more income, and having increasing expected LTC costs. Medicaid program configuration also influences the level of benefits purchased: state reimbursement rates and the presence of comprehensive estate recovery programs are both positively related to the expected value of purchased benefits. Finally, as the difference between the premium charged and the actuarially fair premium increases, individuals buy less coverage. CONCLUSIONS. An important finding with implications for policymakers is that changes in Medicaid policy affect the decisions of consumers regarding the acquisition of private LTC policies as well as the level of protection chosen. This is particularly important to states interested in pursuing public-private partnerships in long-term care financing.
PMCID: PMC1070037  PMID: 7860318
6.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors and Hospitalization for Bradycardia: A Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000157.
Laura Park-Wyllie and colleagues examined the health records of more than 1.4 million older adults and show that initiation of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy is associated with a more than doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia.
Background
Cholinesterase inhibitors are commonly used to treat dementia. These drugs enhance the effects of acetylcholine, and reports suggest they may precipitate bradycardia in some patients. We aimed to examine the association between use of cholinesterase inhibitors and hospitalization for bradycardia.
Methods and Findings
We examined the health care records of more than 1.4 million older adults using a case-time-control design, allowing each individual to serve as his or her own control. Case patients were residents of Ontario, Canada, aged 67 y or older hospitalized for bradycardia between January 1, 2003 and March 31, 2008. Control patients (3∶1) were not hospitalized for bradycardia, and were matched to the corresponding case on age, sex, and a disease risk index. All patients had received cholinesterase inhibitor therapy in the 9 mo preceding the index hospitalization. We identified 1,009 community-dwelling older persons hospitalized for bradycardia within 9 mo of using a cholinesterase inhibitor. Of these, 161 cases informed the matched analysis of discordant pairs. Of these, 17 (11%) required a pacemaker during hospitalization, and six (4%) died prior to discharge. After adjusting for temporal changes in drug utilization, hospitalization for bradycardia was associated with recent initiation of a cholinesterase inhibitor (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29–3.51). The risk was similar among individuals with pre-existing cardiac disease (adjusted OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.18–4.28) and those receiving negative chronotropic drugs (adjusted OR 2.34, 95% CI 1.16–4.71). We found no such association when we replicated the analysis using proton pump inhibitors as a neutral exposure. Despite hospitalization for bradycardia, more than half of the patients (78 of 138 cases [57%]) who survived to discharge subsequently resumed cholinesterase inhibitor therapy.
Conclusions
Among older patients, initiation of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy was associated with a more than doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia. Resumption of therapy following discharge was common, suggesting that the cardiovascular toxicity of cholinesterase inhibitors is underappreciated by clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Alzheimer disease and other forms of dementia principally affect people aged over 65. These conditions result in confusion, long term memory loss, irritability, and mood swings. As the population of developed countries ages, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase significantly. It is forecast that the proportion of people with dementia in the US will quadruple by 2045.
A common treatment for Alzheimer disease is a class of drug called an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor or cholinesterase inhibitor. These include donepezil (brand name Aricept), rivastigmine (marketed as Exelon and Exelon Patch), and galantamine (branded Razadyne).
The benefit of taking cholinesterase inhibitors is generally small and they cannot reverse the effects of dementia. In about 50% of patients they delay the worsening of symptoms for between six months and a year, although a small number of patients may benefit more. They can have unpleasant side effects, which may include diarrhoea and muscle cramps.
Why Was This Study Done?
Existing evidence is inconclusive on whether cholinesterase inhibitors increase the risk of bradycardia, an abnormally slow resting heart rate of below 60 beats a minute, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, or death. In this paper, the authors use routinely collected health care data to investigate whether an older person taking a cholinesterase inhibitor is at increased risk of bradycardia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They began by supposing that cholinesterase inhibitors might induce bradycardia soon after a patient first began to take them. To investigate this, they obtained health care data on 1.4 million patients aged 67 or over in Ontario, Canada. They identified 161 patients who had visited a hospital for bradycardia and who had previously taken a cholinesterase inhibitor only within specific periods of time. They found that 139 had taken a cholinesterase inhibitor within the previous three months compared with 22 who had stopped taking it at least six months before.
They compared these cases with up to three “control” patients who matched each of the initial “case” group of 161 patients by age, sex, and risk of bradycardia on the basis of their general health. None of the 466 controls had visited a hospital for bradycardia by the “index date,” that is, the date of hospitalization of the case patient they matched. The researchers found 349 of the control patients had begun to take a cholinesterase inhibitor in the three months prior to the index date, compared with 117 who had stopped taking it at least six months before. A statistical analysis of these data showed that recent initiation of cholinesterase inhibitors was associated with approximately a doubling of the risk of hospitalization for bradycardia.
The authors repeated their procedure to see whether another class of drug, proton pump inhibitors, had a similar effect. As they had expected, it did not. They repeated the analysis for patients taking into account other drugs that slow the heart rate and found that their increased risk of bradycardia when taking a cholinesterase inhibitor persisted. The increase in risk was also similar in patients with pre-existing heart problems.
The researchers' data also showed that, excluding patients who while in the hospital had a pacemaker fitted to control their heart rate, over half of the patients released from hospital started taking a cholinesterase inhibitor again. Of these, a few returned to hospital with bradycardia within 100 days.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Recent guidelines suggest that doctors should not prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors for dementia patients as a matter of course, but weigh the potential risks and benefits. This paper provides evidence of an additional risk, of which at least some doctors are unaware. It was not possible to compare risk for different cholinesterase inhibitors because most patients took donepezil.
A population-based study like this cannot prove that cholinesterase inhibitors cause bradycardia. The authors used routinely collected data and so did not have information on all relevant risk factors, and thus there remains a possibility of bias due to unmeasured factors. In addition the authors had to make assumptions, for instance that patients took the drugs prescribed for them. They also considered only diagnoses of bradycardia made by a hospital doctor and not those made elsewhere, which means the incidence of bradycardia may have been underestimated. A strength of the study is the use of a case-time-control design, which has the advantage of reducing bias due to the different health conditions and lifestyle of individual patients, and also bias due to factors changing over time.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000157.
Wikipedia contains information on Alzheimer disease (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information on bradycardia and its causes can be found in Wikipedia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UKs National Health Service provides information on dementia, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention
MedlinePlus provides US-based health information (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Aging provides information on health, relevant to older people, including Alzheimer Disease and dementia (in English and Spanish)
The US Alzheimers Association contains useful information on the disease, including on medication
The Public Health Agency of Canada website provides information on senior health (in English and French)
The UK-based Alzheimers Society provides advice on caring for people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000157
PMCID: PMC2742897  PMID: 19787032
7.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Background
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
Conclusions
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338.
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
8.  The role of insurance in the achievement of universal coverage within a developing country context: South Africa as a case study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12(Suppl 1):S5.
Background
Achieving universal coverage as an objective needs to confront the reality of multiple mechanisms, with healthcare financing and provision occurring in both public and private settings. South Africa has both large and mature public and private health systems offering useful insights into how they can be effectively harmonized to optimise coverage. Private healthcare in South Africa has also gone through many phases and regulatory regimes which, through careful review, can help identify potential policy frameworks that can optimise their ability to deepen coverage in a manner that complements the basic coverage of public arrangements.
Research question
Using South Africa as a case study, this review examines whether private health systems are susceptible to regulation and therefore able to support an extension and deepening of coverage when complementing a pre-existing publicly funded and delivered health system?
Methods
The approach involves a review of different stages in the development of the South African private health system and its response to policy changes. The focus is on the time-bound characteristics of the health system and associated policy responses and opportunities. A distinction is consequently made between the early, largely unregulated, phases of development and more mature phases with alternative regulatory regimes.
Results
The private health system in South Africa has played an important supplementary role in achieving universal coverage throughout its history, but more especially in the post-Apartheid period. However, the quality of this role has been erratic, influenced predominantly by policy vacillation.
The private system expanded rapidly during the 1980s mainly due to the pre-existence of a mature health insurance system and a weakening public hospital system which could accommodate and facilitate an increased demand for private hospital services. This growth served to expand commercial interest in health insurance, in the form of regulated medical schemes, which until this point took the form of non-commercial occupational (employer-based) schemes. During the 1980s government acquiesced to industry lobbies arguing for the deregulation of health insurance from 1989, with an extreme deregulation occurring in 1994, evidently in anticipation of the change of government associated with the democratic dispensation. Dramatic unintended consequences followed, with substantial increases in provider and funder costs coinciding with uncontrolled discrimination against poor health risks.
Against significant industry opposition, including legal challenges, partial re-regulation took effect from 2000 which removed the discretion of schemes to discriminate against poor health risks. This included: the implementation of a strong regulator of health insurance; the establishment of one allowable vehicle able to provide health insurance; open enrolment, whereby schemes could not refuse membership applications; mandatory minimum benefit requirements; and a prohibition on setting contributions or premiums on the basis of health status. After a two-year lag, dramatically reduced cost trends and contributions became evident. Aside from generally tighter regulation across a range of fronts, this appears related to the need for schemes to compete more on the basis of healthcare provider costs than demographic risk profiles. Despite an incomplete reform improved equitable coverage and cost-containment was nevertheless achieved.
A more complete regulatory regime is consequently likely to deepen coverage by: further stabilising and even decreasing costs; enhanced risk pooling; and access for low income groups. This would occur if South Africa: improved the quality of free public services, thereby creating competitive constraints for medical schemes; introduced risk-equalisation, increasing the pressure on schemes to compete on the cost and quality of coverage rather than their risk profile; and through the establishment of improved price regulation.
Conclusions
The objective of universal coverage can be seen in two dimensions, horizontal extension and vertical deepening. Private systems play an important role in deepening coverage by mobilising revenue from income earners for health services over-and-above the horizontal extension role of public systems and related subsidies. South Africa provides an example of how this natural deepening occurs whether regulated or unregulated. It also demonstrates how poor regulation of mature private systems can severely undermine this role and diminish achievements below attainable levels of social protection. The mature South African system has demonstrated its sensitivity to regulatory design and responds rapidly to changes both positive and negative. When measures to enhance risk pooling are introduced, coverage is expanded and becomes increasingly fair and sustainable. When removed, however, the system becomes less stable and fair as costs rise and people with poor health status are systematically excluded from cover. This susceptibility to regulation therefore presents an opportunity to policymakers to achieve social protection objectives through the strategic management of markets rather than exclusively through less responsive systems based on tax-funded direct provision. This is especially relevant as private markets for healthcare are inevitable, with policy discretion reduced to a choice between functional or dysfunctional regimes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC3381693  PMID: 22992410
9.  Food Pricing Strategies, Population Diets, and Non-Communicable Disease: A Systematic Review of Simulation Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(12):e1001353.
A systematic review of simulation studies conducted by Helen Eyles and colleagues examines the association between food pricing strategies and food consumption and health and disease outcomes.
Background
Food pricing strategies have been proposed to encourage healthy eating habits, which may in turn help stem global increases in non-communicable diseases. This systematic review of simulation studies investigates the estimated association between food pricing strategies and changes in food purchases or intakes (consumption) (objective 1); Health and disease outcomes (objective 2), and whether there are any differences in these outcomes by socio-economic group (objective 3).
Methods and Findings
Electronic databases, Internet search engines, and bibliographies of included studies were searched for articles published in English between 1 January 1990 and 24 October 2011 for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Where ≥3 studies examined the same pricing strategy and consumption (purchases or intake) or health outcome, results were pooled, and a mean own-price elasticity (own-PE) estimated (the own-PE represents the change in demand with a 1% change in price of that good). Objective 1: pooled estimates were possible for the following: (1) taxes on carbonated soft drinks: own-PE (n = 4 studies), −0.93 (range, −0.06, −2.43), and a modelled −0.02% (−0.01%, −0.04%) reduction in energy (calorie) intake for each 1% price increase (n = 3 studies); (2) taxes on saturated fat: −0.02% (−0.01%, −0.04%) reduction in energy intake from saturated fat per 1% price increase (n = 5 studies); and (3) subsidies on fruits and vegetables: own-PE (n = 3 studies), −0.35 (−0.21, −0.77). Objectives 2 and 3: variability of food pricing strategies and outcomes prevented pooled analyses, although higher quality studies suggested unintended compensatory purchasing that could result in overall effects being counter to health. Eleven of 14 studies evaluating lower socio-economic groups estimated that food pricing strategies would be associated with pro-health outcomes. Food pricing strategies also have the potential to reduce disparities.
Conclusions
Based on modelling studies, taxes on carbonated drinks and saturated fat and subsidies on fruits and vegetables would be associated with beneficial dietary change, with the potential for improved health. Additional research into possible compensatory purchasing and population health outcomes is needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
For the first time in human history, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are killing more people than infectious diseases. Every year, more than 35 million people die from NCDs—nearly two-thirds of the world's annual deaths. More than 80% of these deaths are in developing countries, where a third of NCD-related deaths occur in people younger than 60 years old. And NCDs are not just a growing global public health emergency. They are also financially costly because they reduce productivity and increase calls on health care systems worldwide. Cardiovascular diseases (conditions that affect the heart and circulation such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases (long-term diseases that affect the lungs and airways) are responsible for most NCD-related illnesses and death. The main behavioral risk factors for all these diseases are tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets (diets that have a low fruit and vegetable intake and high saturated fat and salt intakes).
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in population diets and reductions in salt intake are crucial for the control and prevention of NCDs, but how can these behavioral changes be encouraged? One potential but poorly studied strategy is food pricing—the introduction of taxes on unhealthy foods (for example, foods containing high levels of saturated fat) and subsidies on healthy foods (for example, foods high in fiber). However, although a tax on soft drinks, for example, might decrease purchases of these high-sugar drinks, it might also increase purchases of fruit juices, which contain just as much sugar and energy as soft drinks (“compensatory purchasing”), and thus undermine the intended health impact of the tax. Because randomized controlled trials of the effects of food pricing strategies are difficult to undertake, many researchers have turned to mathematical models (sets of equations that quantify relationships between interventions and outcomes) to provide the evidence needed to inform policy decisions on food taxes and subsidies. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), Helen Eyles and colleagues investigate the association between food pricing strategies and food consumption and NCDs by analyzing the results of published mathematical modeling studies of food pricing interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 32 studies that met their predefined inclusion criteria, which included publication by researchers in a member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (a group of largely developed countries that promotes global development). Most of the studies were of low to moderate quality and provided uncertain and varying estimates of the impact of pricing on food consumption. Where three or more studies examined the same pricing strategy and consumption or health outcome, the researchers calculated the average change in demand for a food in response to changes in its price (“own-price elasticity”). For taxes on carbonated soft drinks, the average own-price elasticity was −0.93; that is, the models predicted that a 1% increase in the price of soft drinks would decrease consumption by 0.93%. The modeled reduction in the proportion of energy intake from saturated fat resulting from a 1% increase in the price of saturated fats was 0.02%. Finally, although the researchers' analysis suggested that for each 1% reduction in the price of fruits and vegetables, consumption would increase by 0.35%, they also found evidence that such a subsidy might result in compensatory purchasing, such as a reduction in fish purchases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that pricing strategies have the potential to produce improvements in population diets, at least in developed countries, but also highlight the need for more research in this area. Notably, the researchers found insufficient data to allow them to quantify the effects of pricing strategies on health or to analyze whether the effect of pricing strategies is likely vary between socio-economic groups. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that future modeling studies should include better assessments of the unintended effects of compensatory purchasing and should examine the potential impact of food pricing strategies on long-term health and NCD-related deaths. Finally, they suggest that robust evaluations should be built into the implementation of food pricing policies to answer some of the outstanding questions about this potential strategy for reducing the global burden of NCDs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001353.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living, on chronic diseases and health promotion, and on non-communicable diseases around the world
The Global Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) aims to help low- and middle-income countries reduce NCD-related illnesses and death through implementation of the 2008-2013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (also available in French); NCDnet's Face to face with chronic disease webpage is a selection of personal stories from around the world about dealing with NCDs
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society provide information on many important risk factors for non-communicable diseases and include some personal stories about keeping healthy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001353
PMCID: PMC3519906  PMID: 23239943
10.  Quantifying the Impoverishing Effects of Purchasing Medicines: A Cross-Country Comparison of the Affordability of Medicines in the Developing World 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000333.
Laurens Niëns and colleagues estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability and show that medicine purchases could impoverish large numbers of people.
Background
Increasing attention is being paid to the affordability of medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LICs and MICs) where medicines are often highly priced in relation to income levels. The impoverishing effect of medicine purchases can be estimated by determining pre- and postpayment incomes, which are then compared to a poverty line. Here we estimate the impoverishing effects of four medicines in 16 LICs and MICs using the impoverishment method as a metric of affordability.
Methods and Findings
Affordability was assessed in terms of the proportion of the population being pushed below US$1.25 or US$2 per day poverty levels because of the purchase of medicines. The prices of salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab were obtained from facility-based surveys undertaken using a standard measurement methodology. The World Bank's World Development Indicators provided household expenditure data and information on income distributions. In the countries studied, purchasing these medicines would impoverish large portions of the population (up to 86%). Originator brand products were less affordable than the lowest-priced generic equivalents. In the Philippines, for example, originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day, whereas for the lowest priced generic equivalent this demographic shift is 7%. Given related prevalence figures, substantial numbers of people are affected by the unaffordability of medicines.
Conclusions
Comparing medicine prices to available income in LICs and MICs shows that medicine purchases by individuals in those countries could lead to the impoverishment of large numbers of people. Action is needed to improve medicine affordability, such as promoting the use of quality assured, low-priced generics, and establishing health insurance systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In recent years, the international community has prioritized access to essential medicines, which has required focusing on the accessibility, availability, quality, and affordability of life-saving medicines and the development of appropriate data and research agendas to measure these components. Determining the degree of affordability of medicines, especially in low- and middle-income countries, is a complex process as the term affordability is vague. However, the cost of medicines is a major public health issue, especially as the majority of people in developing countries do not have health insurance and medicines freely provided through the public sector are often unavailable. Therefore, although countries have a legal obligation to make essential medicines available to those who need them at an affordable cost, poor people often have to pay for the medicines that they need when they are ill. Consequently, where medicine prices are high, people may have to forego treatment or they may go into debt if they decide to buy the necessary medicines.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to show the impact of the cost of medicines on poorer populations by undertaking an analysis that quantified the proportion of people who would be pushed into poverty (an income level of US$1.25 or US$2 a day) because their only option is to pay out-of-pocket expenses for the life-saving medicines they need. The researchers referred to this consequence as the “impoverishing effect of a medicine.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers generated “impoverishment rates” of four medicines in 16 low- and middle-income countries by comparing households' daily per capita income before and after (the hypothetical) purchase of one of the following: a salbutamol 100 mcg/dose inhaler, glibenclamide 5 mg cap/tab, atenolol 50 mg cap/tab, and amoxicillin 250 mg cap/tab. This selection of drugs covers the treatment/management of three chronic diseases and one acute illness. The cost of each medicine was taken from standardized surveys, which report median patient prices for a selection of commonly used medicines in the private sector (the availability of essential medicines in the public sector is much lower so many people will depend on the private sector for their medicines) for both originator brand and lowest priced generic products. If the prepayment income was above the US$1.25 (or US$2) poverty line and the postpayment income fell below these lines, purchasing these medicines at current prices impoverishes people.
According to the results of this analysis, a substantial proportion (up to 86%) of the population in the countries studied would be pushed into poverty as a result of purchasing one of the four selected medicines. Furthermore, the lowest priced generic versions of each medicine were generally substantially more affordable than originator brand products. For example, in the Philippines, purchasing originator brand atenolol would push an additional 22% of the population below US$1.25 per day compared to 7% if the lowest priced generic equivalent was bought instead. In effect, purchasing essential medicines for both chronic and acute conditions could impoverish large numbers of people, especially if originator brand products are bought.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the purchasing of medicines represents only part of the costs associated with the management of an illness, it is clear that the high cost of medicines have catastrophic effects on poor people. In addition, as the treatment of chronic conditions often requires a combination of medicines, the cost of treating and managing a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is likely to be even more unaffordable than what is reported in this study. Therefore concerted action is urgently required to improve medicine affordability and prevent poor populations from being pushed further into poverty. Such action could include: governments, civil society organizations, and others making access to essential medicines more of a priority and to consider this strategy as an integral part of reducing poverty; the development, implementation, and enforcement of sound national and international price policies; actively promoting the use of quality assured, low-cost generic drugs; ensuring the availability of essential medicines in the public sector at little or no charge to poor people; establishing health insurance systems with outpatient medicine benefits; encouraging pharmaceutical companies to differentially price medicines that are still subject to patent restrictions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333.
For a comprehensive resource for medicine prices, availability, and affordability, see Health Action International
Guidelines about access to essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies can be found at WHO
Transparency Alliance provides more information about medicines
Access to essential medicines has become a key campaign topic; for more information see Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000333
PMCID: PMC2930876  PMID: 20824175
11.  The Influence of Health Systems on Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control: A Systematic Literature Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001490.
Will Maimaris and colleagues systematically review the evidence that national or regional health systems, including place of care and medication co-pays, influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Hypertension (HT) affects an estimated one billion people worldwide, nearly three-quarters of whom live in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). In both developed and developing countries, only a minority of individuals with HT are adequately treated. The reasons are many but, as with other chronic diseases, they include weaknesses in health systems. We conducted a systematic review of the influence of national or regional health systems on HT awareness, treatment, and control.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies were those that analyzed the impact of health systems arrangements at the regional or national level on HT awareness, treatment, control, or antihypertensive medication adherence. The following databases were searched on 13th May 2013: Medline, Embase, Global Health, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information, IMSEAR, IMEMR, and WPRIM. There were no date or language restrictions. Two authors independently assessed papers for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. A narrative synthesis of the findings was conducted. Meta-analysis was not conducted due to substantial methodological heterogeneity in included studies. 53 studies were included, 11 of which were carried out in LMICs. Most studies evaluated health system financing and only four evaluated the effect of either human, physical, social, or intellectual resources on HT outcomes. Reduced medication co-payments were associated with improved HT control and treatment adherence, mainly evaluated in US settings. On balance, health insurance coverage was associated with improved outcomes of HT care in US settings. Having a routine place of care or physician was associated with improved HT care.
Conclusions
This review supports the minimization of medication co-payments in health insurance plans, and although studies were largely conducted in the US, the principle is likely to apply more generally. Studies that identify and analyze complexities and links between health systems arrangements and their effects on HT management are required, particularly in LMICs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, one billion people, three-quarters of whom were living in low- and middle-income countries, had high blood pressure (hypertension). Worldwide, hypertension, which rarely has any symptoms, leads to about 7.5 million deaths annually from heart attacks, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases, and kidney disease. Hypertension, selected by the World Health Organization as the theme for World Health Day 2013, is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure, the force that blood circulating in the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. Blood pressure is highest when the heart is contracts to pump blood out (systolic blood pressure) and lowest when the heart relaxes and refills (diastolic blood pressure). Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg (a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mmHg). A blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 mmHg indicates hypertension. Many factors affect blood pressure, but overweight people and individuals who eat fatty or salty foods are at high risk of developing hypertension.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most individuals can achieve good hypertension control, which reduces death and disability from cardiovascular and kidney disease, by making lifestyle changes (mild hypertension) and/or by taking antihypertensive drugs. Yet, in both developed and developing countries, many people with hypertension are not aware of their condition and are not adequately treated. As with other chronic diseases, weaknesses in health care systems probably contribute to the inadequate treatment of hypertension. A health care system comprises all the organizations, institutions, and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health. Weaknesses in health care systems can exist at the national, regional, district, community, and household level. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers investigate how national and regional health care system arrangements influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control. Actions that might influence hypertension care at this level of health care systems include providing treatment for hypertension at no or reduced cost, the introduction of financial incentives to healthcare practitioners for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, and enhanced insurance coverage in countries such as the US where people pay for health care through insurance policies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 53 studies that analyzed whether regional or national health care systems arrangements were associated with patient awareness of hypertension, treatment of hypertension, adherence to antihypertensive medication treatment, and control of hypertension. The researchers used an established conceptual framework for health care systems and an approach called narrative synthesis to analyze the results of these studies, most of which were conducted in the US (36 studies) and other high-income countries (eight studies). Nearly all the studies evaluated the effects of health system financing on hypertension outcomes, although several looked at the effects of delivery and governance of health systems on these outcomes. The researchers' analysis revealed an association between reduced medication co-payments (drug costs that are not covered by health insurance and that are paid by patients in countries without universal free healthcare) and improved hypertension control and treatment adherence, mainly in US settings. In addition, in US settings, health insurance coverage was associated with improved hypertension outcomes, as was having a routine physician or place of care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that minimizing co-payments for health care and expansion of health insurance coverage in countries without universal free health care may improve the awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension. Although these findings are based mainly on US studies, they are likely to apply more generally but, importantly, these findings indicate that additional, high-quality studies are needed to unravel the impact of health systems arrangements on the management of hypertension. In particular, they reveal few studies in low- and middle-income countries where most of the global burden of hypertension lies and where weaknesses in health systems often result in deficiencies in the care of chronic diseases. Moreover, they highlight a need for studies that evaluate how aspects of health care systems other than financing (for example, delivery and governance mechanisms) and interactions between health care system arrangements affect hypertension outcomes. Without the results of such studies, governments and national and international organizations will not know the best ways to deal effectively with the global public-health crisis posed by hypertension.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490.
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has patient information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
The American Heart Association provides information on high blood pressure (in several languages) and personal stories about dealing with high blood pressure
The UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices website provides detailed information for patients about hypertension and a personal story about hypertension
The World Health Organization provides information on controlling blood pressure and on health systems (in several languages); its "A Global Brief on Hypertension" was published on World Health Day 2013
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490
PMCID: PMC3728036  PMID: 23935461
12.  Paying for long-term care. 
Western Journal of Medicine  1994;160(1):64-69.
Everyone agrees that insurance for long-term care is inadequate in the United States. Disagreement exists, however, on whether such insurance should be provided through the private or public sector. Private insurance generally uses the experience-rating principle that persons with higher risk of illness are charged higher premiums. For private insurance for long-term care, this principle creates a dilemma. Most policies will be purchased by the elderly; yet, because the elderly have a high risk of needing long-term care, only about 20% of them can afford the cost of premiums. A public-private partnership by which the government partially subsidizes private long-term-care insurance is unlikely to resolve this dilemma. Only a social insurance program for long-term care can provide universal, affordable, and equitable coverage.
PMCID: PMC1022265  PMID: 8128712
13.  A Longitudinal Study of Medicaid Coverage for Tobacco Dependence Treatments in Massachusetts and Associated Decreases in Hospitalizations for Cardiovascular Disease 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000375.
Thomas Land and colleagues show that among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was followed by a substantial decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease.
Background
Insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence in a population. However, uncertainty about the impact of this coverage on health care utilization and costs is a barrier to the broader adoption of this policy, especially by publicly funded state Medicaid insurance programs. Whether a publicly funded tobacco cessation benefit leads to decreased medical claims for tobacco-related diseases has not been studied. We examined the experience of Massachusetts, whose Medicaid program adopted comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications in July 2006. Over 75,000 Medicaid subscribers used the benefit in the first 2.5 years. On the basis of earlier secondary survey work, it was estimated that smoking prevalence declined among subscribers by 10% during this period.
Methods and Findings
Using claims data, we compared the probability of hospitalization prior to use of the tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries, adjusting for demographics, comorbidities, seasonality, influenza cases, and the implementation of the statewide smoke-free air law using generalized estimating equations. Statistically significant annualized declines of 46% (95% confidence interval 2%–70%) and 49% (95% confidence interval 6%–72%) were observed in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction and other acute coronary heart disease diagnoses, respectively. There were no significant decreases in hospitalizations rates for respiratory diagnoses or seven other diagnostic groups evaluated.
Conclusions
Among Massachusetts Medicaid subscribers, use of a comprehensive tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy benefit was associated with a significant decrease in claims for hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction and acute coronary heart disease, but no significant change in hospital claims for other diagnoses. For low-income smokers, removing the barriers to the use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy has the potential to decrease short-term utilization of hospital services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Globally, it is responsible for one in ten deaths among adults. In developed countries, the death toll is even higher—in the USA and the UK, for example, one in five deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. In the USA alone, where a fifth of adults smoke, smoking accounts for more than 400,000 deaths every year; globally, smoking causes 5 million deaths per year. On average, smokers die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely because of a smoking-related disease. These diseases include lung cancer, other types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases such as chronic airway obstruction, bronchitis, and emphysema. And, for every smoker who dies from one of these smoking-related diseases, another 20 will develop at least one serious disease because of their addiction to tobacco.
Why Was This Study Done?
About half of US smokers try to quit each year but most of these attempts fail. Many experts believe that counseling and/or treatment with tobacco cessation medications such as nicotine replacement products help smokers to quit. In the USA, where health care is paid for through private or state health insurance, there is some evidence that insurance coverage of tobacco cessation medications increases their use and reduces smoking prevalence. However, smoking cessation treatment is poorly covered by US health insurance programs, largely because of uncertainty about the impact of such coverage on health care costs. It is unknown, for example, whether the introduction of publicly funded tobacco cessation benefits decreases claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. In this longitudinal study (a study that follows a group of individuals over a period of time), the researchers ask whether the adoption of comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation medications by the Massachusetts Medicaid program (MassHealth) in July 2006 has affected claims for treatment for tobacco-related diseases. During its first two and half years, more than 75,000 MassHealth subscribers used the tobacco cessation medication benefit and smoking prevalence among subscribers declined by approximately 10% (38.3% to 28.8%).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used MassHealth claims data and a statistical method called generalized estimating equations to compare the probability of hospitalization prior to the use of tobacco cessation medication benefit with the probability of hospitalization after benefit use among MassHealth subscribers. After adjusting for other factors that might have affected hospitalization such as influenza outbreaks and the implementation of the Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law in July 2004, there was a statistically significant annualized decline in hospital admissions for heart attack of 46% after use of the tobacco cessation medication benefit. That is, the calculated annual rate of admissions for heart attacks was 46% lower after use of the benefit than before among MassHealth beneficiaries. There was also a 49% annualized decline in admissions for coronary atherosclerosis, another smoking-related heart disease. There were no significant changes in hospitalization rates for lung diseases (including asthma, pneumonia, and chronic airway obstruction) or for seven other diagnostic groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among MassHealth subscribers, the use of a tobacco cessation medication benefit was followed by a significant decrease in claims for hospitalization for heart attack and for coronary atherosclerosis but not for other diseases. It does not, however, show that the reduced claims for hospitalization were associated with a reduction in smoking because smoking cessation was not recorded by MassHealth. Furthermore, it is possible that the people who used the tobacco cessation medication benefit shared other characteristics that reduced their chances of hospitalization for heart disease. For example, people using tobacco cessation medication might have been more likely to adhere to prescription schedules for medications such as statins that would also reduce their risk of heart disease. Finally, these findings might be unique to Massachusetts, so similar studies need to be undertaken in other states. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that, for low-income smokers, removing financial barriers to the use of smoking cessation medications has the potential to produce short-term decreases in the use of hospital services that will, hopefully, outweigh the costs of comprehensive tobacco cessation medication benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health has information on all aspects of smoking and health, including advice on how to quit
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site provides advice about quitting smoking; more advice on quitting is provided by Smokefree
The American Heart Association provides information on heart disease, including advice on how to quit smoking (in several languages)
Information about MassHealth is available, including information on smoking and tobacco use prevention
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000375
PMCID: PMC3000429  PMID: 21170313
14.  Uninsured and unstably insured: the importance of continuous insurance coverage. 
Health Services Research  2000;35(1 Pt 2):187-206.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the importance of continuous health insurance for access to care by comparing the access and cost experiences of insured adults with a recent time uninsured to the experiences of currently uninsured adults and experiences of adults with no time uninsured within a reference time period (continuously insured). DATA SOURCES: Adults ages 18-64. Data draw from three different survey databases: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 1996-1997 Community Tracking Survey, the Kaiser/Commonwealth 1997 National Survey of Health Insurance, and the 1995-1997 Kaiser/Commonwealth State Low Income Surveys. STUDY DESIGN: The study groups individuals into three insurance categories based on respondents' reports of insurance coverage within a reference time period: continuously insured; insured when surveyed but with recent time uninsured; and currently uninsured. In the two Kaiser/Commonwealth surveys the recently uninsured group included any insured respondent with a time uninsured in the past two years. In the Community Tracking Survey, the recently uninsured group included any insured respondent with a time uninsured in the past year. Measures of access include foregoing health care when needed, usual source of care, use of health care services, difficulties paying for medical care, and satisfaction with care. DATA COLLECTION: All three surveys were conducted primarily by telephone. The Community Tracking Survey drew from 60 community sites, with an additional random national sample. The Kaiser/Commonwealth National Survey was a random national sample; the Kaiser/Commonwealth State Low Income Surveys included adults ages 18-64 with incomes at or below 250 percent of poverty in seven states: Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, New York, and California. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Compared to the continuously insured, those insured but with a recent time uninsured were at high risk of going without needed care and of having problems paying medical bills. This group was two to three times as likely as those with continuous coverage to report access problems. Rates of access and cost problems reported by insured adults with a recent time uninsured neared levels reported by those who were uninsured at the time of the survey. These two groups also rated care received more negatively than did adults with continuous insurance coverage. In general, the access gap between persons insured and uninsured widened as a result of distinguishing insured adults with a recent time uninsured from insured adults with no time uninsured. CONCLUSION: Studies that focus on current insurance status alone will underestimate the extent to which having a time uninsured during the year contributes to access difficulties and undermines quality of care, and will underestimate the proportion of the population at risk because they are uninsured. Policy reforms are needed to maintain continuous insurance coverage and avoid spells uninsured. Currently uninsured and unstably insured adults are both at high risk.
PMCID: PMC1089095  PMID: 10778809
15.  Prevalence, Distribution, and Impact of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Latin America, China, and India: A 10/66 Population-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001170.
A set of cross-sectional surveys carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India reveal the prevalence and between-country variation in mild cognitive impairment at a population level.
Background
Rapid demographic ageing is a growing public health issue in many low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs). Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a construct frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, crucial for targeting preventative interventions. However, little is known about the prevalence or impact of MCI in LAMIC settings.
Methods and Findings
Data were analysed from cross-sectional surveys established by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group and carried out in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, China, and India on 15,376 individuals aged 65+ without dementia. Standardised assessments of mental and physical health, and cognitive function were carried out including informant interviews. An algorithm was developed to define Mayo Clinic amnestic MCI (aMCI). Disability (12-item World Health Organization disability assessment schedule [WHODAS]) and informant-reported neuropsychiatric symptoms (neuropsychiatric inventory [NPI-Q]) were measured. After adjustment, aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability (but not depression); between-country heterogeneity in these associations was only significant for disability. The crude prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Country differences changed little (range 0.6%–4.6%) after standardization for age, gender, and education level. In pooled estimates, aMCI was modestly associated with male gender and fewer assets but was not associated with age or education. There was no significant between-country variation in these demographic associations.
Conclusions
An algorithm-derived diagnosis of aMCI showed few sociodemographic associations but was consistently associated with higher disability and neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to showing substantial variation in prevalence across LAMIC populations. Longitudinal data are needed to confirm findings—in particular, to investigate the predictive validity of aMCI in these settings and risk/protective factors for progression to dementia; however, the large number affected has important implications in these rapidly ageing settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, more than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia, the commonest form of which is Alzheimer's disease, mainly affects older people and, because more people than ever are living to a ripe old age, experts estimate that, by 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia. At present, there is no cure for dementia although drugs can be used to manage some of the symptoms. Risk factors for dementia include physical inactivity, infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities, and common vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. In addition, some studies have reported that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is associated with an increased risk of dementia. MCI can be seen as an intermediate state between normal cognitive aging (becoming increasingly forgetful) and dementia although many people with MCI never develop dementia, and some types of MCI can be static or self-limiting. Individuals with MCI have cognitive problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of a similar age but they have no other symptoms of dementia and are able to look after themselves. The best studied form of MCI—amnestic MCI (aMCI)—is characterized by memory problems such as misplacing things and forgetting appointments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Much of the expected increase in dementia will occur in low and middle income countries (LAMICs) because these countries have rapidly aging populations. Given that aMCI is frequently used to define groups of people who may be at risk of developing dementia, it would be useful to know what proportion of community-dwelling older adults in LAMICs have aMCI (the prevalence of aMCI). Such information might help governments plan their future health care and social support needs. In this cross-sectional, population-based study, the researchers estimate the prevalence of aMCI in eight LAMICs using data collected by the 10/66 Dementia Research Group. They also investigate the association of aMCI with sociodemographic factors (for example, age, gender, and education), disability, and neuropsychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, apathy, irritability, and depression. A cross-sectional study collects data on a population at a single time point; the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is building an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving the health and social welfare of older people in LAMICs, particularly people with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In cross-sectional surveys carried out in six Latin American LAMICS, China, and India, more than 15,000 elderly individuals without dementia completed standardized assessments of their mental and physical health and their cognitive function. Interviews with relatives and carers provided further details about the participant's cognitive decline and about neuropsychiatric symptoms. The researchers developed an algorithm (set of formulae) that used the data collected in these surveys to diagnose aMCI in the study participants. Finally, they used statistical methods to analyze the prevalence, distribution, and impact of aMCI in the eight LAMICs. The researchers report that aMCI was associated with disability, anxiety, apathy, and irritability but not with depression and that the prevalence of aMCI ranged from 0.8% in China to 4.3% in India. Other analyses show that, considered across all eight countries, aMCI was modestly associated with being male (men had a slightly higher prevalence of aMCI than women) and with having fewer assets but was not associated with age or education.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that aMCI, as diagnosed using the algorithm developed by the researchers, is consistently associated with higher disability and with neuropsychiatric symptoms in the LAMICs studied but not with most sociodemographic factors. Because prevalidated and standardized measurements were applied consistently in all the countries and a common algorithm was used to define aMCI, these findings also suggest that the prevalence of aMCI varies markedly among LAMIC populations and is similar to or slightly lower than the prevalence most often reported for European and North American populations. Although longitudinal studies are now needed to investigate the extent to which aMCI can be used as risk marker for further cognitive decline and dementia in these settings, the large absolute numbers of older people with aMCI in LAMICs revealed here potentially has important implications for health care and social service planning in these rapidly aging and populous regions of the world.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170.
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to three World Alzheimer Reports; information about the 10/66 Dementia Research Group is also available on this web site
The Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including information on MCI and personal stories about living with dementia
The Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and about MCI, and personal stories about dementia
A BBC radio program that includes an interview with a man with MCI is available
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about MCI and dementia (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001170
PMCID: PMC3274506  PMID: 22346736
16.  Multiple Dimensions of Private Information: Evidence from the Long-Term Care Insurance Market 
The American economic review  2006;96(4):938-958.
We demonstrate the existence of multiple dimensions of private information in the long-term care insurance market. Two types of people purchase insurance: individuals with private information that they are high risk and individuals with private information that they have strong taste for insurance. Ex post, the former are higher risk than insurance companies expect, while the latter are lower risk. In aggregate, those with more insurance are not higher risk. Our results demonstrate that insurance markets may suffer from asymmetric information even absent a positive correlation between insurance coverage and risk occurrence. The results also suggest a general test for asymmetric information.
doi:10.1257/aer.96.4.938
PMCID: PMC3022330  PMID: 21253439
17.  A Randomised, Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Dementia Patients Continuing or Stopping Neuroleptics (The DART-AD Trial)  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e76.
Background
There have been increasing concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of neuroleptics in people with dementia, but there are very few long-term trials to inform clinical practice. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of long-term treatment with neuroleptic agents upon global cognitive decline and neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with Alzheimer disease.
Methods and Findings
Design: Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled parallel two-group treatment discontinuation trial.
Setting: Oxfordshire, Newcastle and Gateshead, London and Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Participants: Patients currently prescribed the neuroleptics thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol trifluoperazine or risperidone for behavioural or psychiatric disturbance in dementia for at least 3 mo.
Interventions: Continue neuroleptic treatment for 12 mo or switch to an identical placebo.
Outcome measures: Primary outcome was total Severe Impairment Battery (SIB) score. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were evaluated with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
Results: 165 patients were randomised (83 to continue treatment and 82 to placebo, i.e., discontinue treatment), of whom 128 (78%) commenced treatment (64 continue/64 placebo). Of those, 26 were lost to follow-up (13 per arm), resulting in 51 patients per arm analysed for the primary outcome. There was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups in the estimated mean change in SIB scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring placebo) −0.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] −6.4 to 5.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.9). For neuropsychiatric symptoms, there was no significant difference between the continue treatment and placebo groups (n = 56 and 53, respectively) in the estimated mean change in NPI scores between baseline and 6 mo; estimated mean difference in deterioration (favouring continue treatment) −2.4 (95% CI −8.2 to 3.5), adjusted for baseline value (p = 0.4). Both results became more pronounced at 12 mo. There was some evidence to suggest that those patients with initial NPI ≥ 15 benefited on neuropsychiatric symptoms from continuing treatment.
Conclusions
For most patients with AD, withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect on functional and cognitive status. Neuroleptics may have some value in the maintenance treatment of more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, but this benefit must be weighed against the side effects of therapy.
Trial registration: Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials/National Research Register (#ISRCTN33368770).
In a randomized trial of patients with dementia, Clive Ballard and colleagues show that withdrawal of neuroleptics had no overall detrimental effect, and by some measures improved, functional and cognitive status.
Editors' Summary
Background
The number of people with dementia (currently 25 million worldwide) is expected to increase by 5 million each year. The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer disease, increases sharply with age: Alzheimer's Disease International estimates that 1.4% of people 65–69 have dementia, whereas almost a full quarter of those over the age of 85 years are affected. Almost all older dementia patients will experience, along with the cognitive and functional decline typical of the illness, some neuropsychiatric symptoms. These symptoms can include agitation, aggression, and psychosis, and are often devastating for the older patient and his or her family and caregiver. Managing these symptoms is often a prime concern for health-care providers and families. Neuroleptics (sometimes called antipsychotics) are the class of drugs often used to manage or control neuropsychiatric problems, but there have been questions about their safety and appropriateness. Safety concerns involve risk of stroke, parkinsonism, sedation, edema, and chest infections but also include a worsening of cognitive decline with prolonged use of neuroleptics.
Why Was the Study Done?
Previous studies on the effectiveness and safety of neuroleptics in older people have been short term. Ballard and colleagues wanted to study over a longer period of time the impact of neuroleptic drugs on elderly patients with dementia. Specifically, they wanted to know if being on a neuroleptic was associated with more cognitive decline than coming off the drug. They also wanted to investigate whether discontinuing the drug exacerbated any neuropsychiatric symptoms, Parkinson disease-like symptoms, or other functional, language, and cognition difficulties frequently associated with dementia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited older patients with Alzheimer disease from across England who had been on neuroleptics for at least three months. They randomised patients to one of two groups: the first group continued taking the same neuroleptic at the same dosage level while the second group was switched to an identical-looking placebo. The researchers assessed the patients' cognitive status and neuropsychiatric symptoms upon their entry into the study. Six and 12 months later the researchers assessed any cognitive decline and the level of neuropsychiatric and other problems that patients were experiencing.
At both 6 and 12 months, the researchers found that there were no differences between the two groups (continued treatment and placebo) in terms of cognitive decline. The placebo group may have had less cognitive decline, but this was not statistically significant. They also found no overall differences between the two groups in the change in the number of neuropsychiatric symptoms over these time periods. Patients with severe neuropsychiatric problems at the outset of the trial did better on continued neuroleptic therapy, but this advantage was not statistically significant. There was a significant decline on the verbal fluency language tests among the patients who continued on their neuroleptic.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The researchers report perhaps the first trial of this duration on continued versus withdrawn neuroleptic treatment among older dementia patients. The findings do not indicate any benefit of continuing neuroleptic therapies in older patients on either cognitive or neuropsychiatric outcomes. The researchers conclude that neuroleptics, with their known safety issues, should not be used as first-line treatment to manage problems such as agitation or aggression. For older dementia patients whose neuropsychiatric symptoms are not remedied by nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers advise caution. More studies are urgently needed to find better solutions to help older patients with dementia who have agitation, aggression, and psychosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050076.
Alzheimer's Disease International is an umbrella organisation of organisations worldwide
The Alzheimer's Research Trust in the UK is a charity funding research to cure or prevent dementias
The US National Institutes of Aging has information on Alzheimer Disease in English and Spanish
Two governmental regulatory agencies—the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US—offer information about antipsychotics in people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050076
PMCID: PMC2276521  PMID: 18384230
18.  Prescription Medicines and the Risk of Road Traffic Crashes: A French Registry-Based Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(11):e1000366.
Using three nationwide databases in France, Ludivine Orriols, Emmanuel Lagarde, and colleagues provide evidence that prescribed medicines contribute to the risk of experiencing a road traffic crash.
Background
In recent decades, increased attention has been focused on the impact of disabilities and medicinal drug use on road safety. The aim of our study was to investigate the association between prescription medicines and the risk of road traffic crashes, and estimate the attributable fraction.
Methods and Findings
We extracted and matched data from three French nationwide databases: the national health care insurance database, police reports, and the national police database of injurious crashes. Drivers identified by their national health care number involved in an injurious crash in France, between July 2005 and May 2008, were included in the study. Medicines were grouped according to the four risk levels of the French classification system (from 0 [no risk] to 3 [high risk]). We included 72,685 drivers involved in injurious crashes. Users of level 2 (odds ratio [OR]  = 1.31 [1.24–1.40]) and level 3 (OR  = 1.25 [1.12–1.40]) prescription medicines were at higher risk of being responsible for a crash. The association remained after adjustment for the presence of a long-term chronic disease. The fraction of road traffic crashes attributable to levels 2 and 3 medications was 3.3% [2.7%–3.9%]. A within-person case-crossover analysis showed that drivers were more likely to be exposed to level 3 medications on the crash day than on a control day, 30 days earlier (OR  = 1.15 [1.05–1.27]).
Conclusion
The use of prescription medicines is associated with a substantial number of road traffic crashes in France. In light of the results, warning messages appear to be relevant for level 2 and 3 medications and questionable for level 1 medications. A follow-up study is needed to evaluate the impact of the warning labeling system on road traffic crash prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 1.3 million people die each year on the world's road. 90% of road traffic deaths occur in developing countries, with pedestrians, cyclists, and users of two-wheel vehicles (scooters, motorbikes) the most vulnerable road users. Although the use of prescribed benzodiazepines has already been documented to be associated with road traffic accidents in industrialized countries, the effects of other medicines have not been well studied or have inconsistent results (for example opioids and antidepressant medications). In the European Union, it is mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to provide data about the effect of a medicine on ability to drive. In France, a multidisciplinary group of experts was appointed to classify all medicines into four levels of risk (from level 0, no or negligible risk, to level 3, major risk), in terms of their effect on driving performances. In 2006, the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety proposed a classification list similar to the French classification system.
Why Was This Study Done? There is a pressing need to understand the association between prescribed medicines and the risk of road traffic crashes and also to have a more accurate picture of the fraction of road traffic crashes that are attributable to the use of prescribed medicines. This large French study aimed to advance knowledge in this important area.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find? The researchers used three data sources to find the information they needed: the national health care insurance database (which covers the whole French population and includes data on reimbursed prescription medicines), police reports, and the national police database of injurious road traffic crashes. Drivers involved in road traffic crashes (identified by their national healthcare number) between July 2005 and May 2008 were included in the study. The researchers used a statistical model to conduct a responsibility analysis, which determined factors associated with each driver responsible for the road traffic crash and each driver who was not responsible (controls). In addition, the researchers compared medicine exposure during a period immediately before the crash (case period) with exposure during an earlier period (control period) for each driver involved in a crash. The researchers retrieved data on reimbursed medicines, dispensed within six months of the road traffic crash, by linking included drivers to the national health care insurance database using their national ID, gender, and date of birth and grouped all prescribed medicines according to the four risk levels of the French classification system.
During the study period, 72,685 drivers involved in injurious road traffic crashes were included. The researchers found that drivers who had been prescribed level 2 and level 3 medicines were at higher risk (odds ratio 1.31 and OR 1.25, respectively) of being responsible for the road traffic crash, an association that remained after the researchers adjusted for the presence of chronic diseases. Furthermore, the researchers found that the fraction of road traffic crashes attributable to the use of (prescriptions for) level 2 and 3 medicines was 3.3% and that drivers were more likely to be exposed to level 3 medicines on the day of the road traffic crash than on a control day.
What Do These Findings Mean? This study provides strong evidence for the contribution of medicines to the risk of experiencing a road traffic crash. The French drug risk classification scheme seems accurate for medicines classified as levels 2 and 3 of risk for road traffic crashes. The effect on driving abilities of level 2 medicines depends both on the pharmacodynamics of the drug and on individual susceptibility, whereas for level 3 medicines, the pharmacodynamic effect seems to be predominant. The effects of level 1 medicines seem to be so dependent on individual susceptibility that effects on driving abilities are rare, which raises questions about the relevance of the labels for these medicines. However, some limitations with the study methodology might affect the interpretation of these findings. For example, the researchers used dispensing dates for medications as a surrogate for ingestion and were not able to check for noncompliance.
However, this study provides some of the strongest evidence to date of the need for health care workers to provide patients with proper information on the potential effect of any medicine that they are prescribed (or take) on their driving abilities.
Additional Information Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000366.The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on road traffic accidentsTwo Web sites provide information for drivers about drugs that could affect their ability to driveThe US National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health has an information sheet on drugged driving
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000366
PMCID: PMC2981588  PMID: 21125020
19.  Choroidal Proteins Involved in Cerebrospinal Fluid Production may be Potential Drug Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy 
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly. It is clinically characterized by impairment of cognitive functions, as well as changes in personality, behavioral disturbances and an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living. To date, there are no effective ways to cure or reverse the disease. Genetic studies of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease cases revealed causative mutations in the genes encoding β-amyloid precursor protein and the γ-secretase-complex components presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, supporting an important role of β-amyloid in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Compromised function of the choroid plexus and defective cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover, with diminished clearance of β-amyloid, may play an important role in late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease. If reduced cerebrospinal fluid turnover is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, then therapeutic strategies to improve cerebrospinal fluid flow are reasonable. However, the role of deficient cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in Alzheimer’s disease and the relevance of choroidal proteins as potential therapeutic targets to enhance cerebrospinal fluid turnover have received relatively little research attention. In this paper, we discuss several choroidal proteins, such as Na+-K+ ATPase, carbonic anhydrase, and aquaporin 1, that may be targets for pharmacological up-regulation of cerebrospinal fluid formation. The search for potentially beneficial drugs useful to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease by facilitating cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover may be an important area for future research. However, the ultimate utility of such modulators in the management of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined. Here, we hypothesize that caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, may be an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since long-term caffeine consumption may augment cerebrospinal fluid production. Other potential mechanisms of cognitive protection by caffeine have been suggested by recent studies.
doi:10.4137/PMC.S6509
PMCID: PMC3072647  PMID: 21487536
Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin 1; caffeine; carbonic anhydrase II; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; cerebrospinal fluid production; choroid plexus; intracranial pressure; Na+-K+ ATPase; SLC4A10
20.  How Much Risk Pooling Is There in the Individual Insurance Market? 
Health Services Research  2006;41(5):1782-1800.
Objective
To examine how much pooling of risks occurs among potential purchasers in the individual market, how much pooling occurs among those who purchase coverage, and whether there is greater pooling among longer-term enrollees.
Data Sources
The data are administrative records for enrollees in individual insurance plans in California in 2001, and from a survey of Californians enrolled in the individual insurance market and the uninsured.
Study Design
Logit models were estimated for 5 health outcome measures to compare the insured and uninsured after adjusting for other factors that affect insurance status and health. Multivariate models were also estimated to explore the relationship between health and three measures of pooling in the market: plan type, pricing tier, and the actuarially adjusted premium paid by the enrollee.
Principal Findings
Those who purchase individual health insurance are in better health than those who remain uninsured. On the other hand, a large share of people with health problems does obtain individual insurance. The distribution of subscribers across plan type and pricing tier varies with their health status. Those in poor health are less likely to purchase low benefit plans. There is less separation of risks for those who become sick after enrollment based on the measure of pricing tier. The distribution of subscribers across plan type for those who have health problems at enrollment and those who become sick differs, but so does the distribution of those who become sick and those who remain healthy.
Conclusions
Despite small differences among the healthy and sick, our results support the conclusion that there is considerable risk pooling in the individual market. To some extent, this pooling occurs because underwriting happens at the time people enroll and there is greater pooling among those who become sick than those who enroll sick. Our results however suggest that health savings accounts may further fragment the market.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00577.x
PMCID: PMC1955300  PMID: 16987302
Risk pooling; health insurance; adverse selection
21.  Associations between self-referral and health behavior responses to genetic risk information 
Genome Medicine  2015;7(1):10.
Background
Studies examining whether genetic risk information about common, complex diseases can motivate individuals to improve health behaviors and advance planning have shown mixed results. Examining the influence of different study recruitment strategies may help reconcile inconsistencies.
Methods
Secondary analyses were conducted on data from the REVEAL study, a series of randomized clinical trials examining the impact of genetic susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We tested whether self-referred participants (SRPs) were more likely than actively recruited participants (ARPs) to report health behavior and advance planning changes after AD risk and APOE genotype disclosure.
Results
Of 795 participants with known recruitment status, 546 (69%) were self-referred and 249 (31%) had been actively recruited. SRPs were younger, less likely to identify as African American, had higher household incomes, and were more attentive to AD than ARPs (all P < 0.01). They also dropped out of the study before genetic risk disclosure less frequently (26% versus 41%, P < 0.001). Cohorts did not differ in their likelihood of reporting a change to at least one health behavior 6 weeks and 12 months after genetic risk disclosure, nor in intentions to change at least one behavior in the future. However, interaction effects were observed where ε4-positive SRPs were more likely than ε4-negative SRPs to report changes specifically to mental activities (38% vs 19%, p < 0.001) and diets (21% vs 12%, p = 0.016) six weeks post-disclosure, whereas differences between ε4-positive and ε4-negative ARPs were not evident for mental activities (15% vs 21%, p = 0.413) or diets (8% versus 16%, P = 0.190). Similarly, ε4-positive participants were more likely than ε4-negative participants to report intentions to change long-term care insurance among SRPs (20% vs 5%, p < 0.001), but not ARPs (5% versus 9%, P = 0.365).
Conclusions
Individuals who proactively seek AD genetic risk assessment are more likely to undergo testing and use results to inform behavior changes than those who respond to genetic testing offers. These results demonstrate how the behavioral impact of genetic risk information may vary according to the models by which services are provided, and suggest that how participants are recruited into translational genomics research can influence findings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00089882 and NCT00462917
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0124-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0124-0
PMCID: PMC4311425  PMID: 25642295
22.  Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia 
Background and Purpose
This scientific statement provides an overview of the evidence on vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia. Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia of later life are common. Definitions of vascular cognitive impairment (VCI), neuropathology, basic science and pathophysiological aspects, role of neuroimaging and vascular and other associated risk factors, and potential opportunities for prevention and treatment are reviewed. This statement serves as an overall guide for practitioners to gain a better understanding of VCI and dementia, prevention, and treatment.
Methods
Writing group members were nominated by the writing group co-chairs on the basis of their previous work in relevant topic areas and were approved by the American Heart Association Stroke Council Scientific Statement Oversight Committee, the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and the Manuscript Oversight Committee. The writing group used systematic literature reviews (primarily covering publications from 1990 to May 1, 2010), previously published guidelines, personal files, and expert opinion to summarize existing evidence, indicate gaps in current knowledge, and, when appropriate, formulate recommendations using standard American Heart Association criteria. All members of the writing group had the opportunity to comment on the recommendations and approved the final version of this document. After peer review by the American Heart Association, as well as review by the Stroke Council leadership, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Council, and Scientific Statements Oversight Committee, the statement was approved by the American Heart Association Science Advisory and Coordinating Committee.
Results
The construct of VCI has been introduced to capture the entire spectrum of cognitive disorders associated with all forms of cerebral vascular brain injury—not solely stroke—ranging from mild cognitive impairment through fully developed dementia. Dysfunction of the neurovascular unit and mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow are likely to be important components of the pathophysiological processes underlying VCI. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy is emerging as an important marker of risk for Alzheimer disease, microinfarction, microhemorrhage and macrohemorrhage of the brain, and VCI. The neuropathology of cognitive impairment in later life is often a mixture of Alzheimer disease and microvascular brain damage, which may overlap and synergize to heighten the risk of cognitive impairment. In this regard, magnetic resonance imaging and other neuroimaging techniques play an important role in the definition and detection of VCI and provide evidence that subcortical forms of VCI with white matter hyperintensities and small deep infarcts are common. In many cases, risk markers for VCI are the same as traditional risk factors for stroke. These risks may include but are not limited to atrial fibrillation, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hypercholesterolemia. Furthermore, these same vascular risk factors may be risk markers for Alzheimer disease. Carotid intimal-medial thickness and arterial stiffness are emerging as markers of arterial aging and may serve as risk markers for VCI. Currently, no specific treatments for VCI have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, detection and control of the traditional risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease may be effective in the prevention of VCI, even in older people.
Conclusions
Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia are important. Understanding of VCI has evolved substantially in recent years, based on preclinical, neuropathologic, neuroimaging, physiological, and epidemiological studies. Transdisciplinary, translational, and transactional approaches are recommended to further our understanding of this entity and to better characterize its neuropsychological profile. There is a need for prospective, quantitative, clinical-pathological-neuroimaging studies to improve knowledge of the pathological basis of neuroimaging change and the complex interplay between vascular and Alzheimer disease pathologies in the evolution of clinical VCI and Alzheimer disease. Long-term vascular risk marker interventional studies beginning as early as midlife may be required to prevent or postpone the onset of VCI and Alzheimer disease. Studies of intensive reduction of vascular risk factors in high-risk groups are another important avenue of research.
doi:10.1161/STR.0b013e3182299496
PMCID: PMC3778669  PMID: 21778438
AHA Scientific Statements; vascular dementia; Alzheimer disease; risk factors; prevention; treatment
23.  Male Circumcision at Different Ages in Rwanda: A Cost-Effectiveness Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000211.
Agnes Binagwaho and colleagues predict that circumcision of newborn boys would be effective and cost-saving as a long-term strategy to prevent HIV in Rwanda.
Background
There is strong evidence showing that male circumcision (MC) reduces HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In Rwanda, where adult HIV prevalence is 3%, MC is not a traditional practice. The Rwanda National AIDS Commission modelled cost and effects of MC at different ages to inform policy and programmatic decisions in relation to introducing MC. This study was necessary because the MC debate in Southern Africa has focused primarily on MC for adults. Further, this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a cost-effectiveness study on MC has been carried out in a country where HIV prevalence is below 5%.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness model was developed and applied to three hypothetical cohorts in Rwanda: newborns, adolescents, and adult men. Effectiveness was defined as the number of HIV infections averted, and was calculated as the product of the number of people susceptible to HIV infection in the cohort, the HIV incidence rate at different ages, and the protective effect of MC; discounted back to the year of circumcision and summed over the life expectancy of the circumcised person. Direct costs were based on interviews with experienced health care providers to determine inputs involved in the procedure (from consumables to staff time) and related prices. Other costs included training, patient counselling, treatment of adverse events, and promotion campaigns, and they were adjusted for the averted lifetime cost of health care (antiretroviral therapy [ART], opportunistic infection [OI], laboratory tests). One-way sensitivity analysis was performed by varying the main inputs of the model, and thresholds were calculated at which each intervention is no longer cost-saving and at which an intervention costs more than one gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per life-year gained. Results: Neonatal MC is less expensive than adolescent and adult MC (US$15 instead of US$59 per procedure) and is cost-saving (the cost-effectiveness ratio is negative), even though savings from infant circumcision will be realized later in time. The cost per infection averted is US$3,932 for adolescent MC and US$4,949 for adult MC. Results for infant MC appear robust. Infant MC remains highly cost-effective across a reasonable range of variation in the base case scenario. Adolescent MC is highly cost-effective for the base case scenario but this high cost-effectiveness is not robust to small changes in the input variables. Adult MC is neither cost-saving nor highly cost-effective when considering only the direct benefit for the circumcised man.
Conclusions
The study suggests that Rwanda should be simultaneously scaling up circumcision across a broad range of age groups, with high priority to the very young. Infant MC can be integrated into existing health services (i.e., neonatal visits and vaccination sessions) and over time has better potential than adolescent and adult circumcision to achieve the very high coverage of the population required for maximal reduction of HIV incidence. In the presence of infant MC, adolescent and adult MC would evolve into a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but would eventually become superfluous.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981 and more than 31 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and no vaccine against HIV infection. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection, therefore, by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few sexual partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, male circumcision—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of penis—can halve HIV transmission rates to men resulting from sex with women. Thus, as part of its HIV prevention strategy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that male circumcision programs be scaled up in countries where there is a generalized HIV epidemic and where few men are circumcised.
Why Was This Study Done?
One such country is Rwanda. Here, 3% of the adult population is infected with HIV but only 15% of men are circumcised—worldwide, about 30% of men are circumcised. Demand for circumcision is increasing in Rwanda but, before policy makers introduce a country-wide male circumcision program, they need to identify the most cost-effective way to increase circumcision rates. In particular, they need to decide the age at which circumcision should be offered. Circumcision soon after birth (neonatal circumcision) is quick and simple and rarely causes any complications. Circumcision of adolescents and adults is more complex and has a higher complication rate. Although several studies have investigated the cost-effectiveness (the balance between the clinical and financial costs of a medical intervention and its benefits) of circumcision in adult men, little is known about its cost-effectiveness in newborn boys. In this study, which is one of several studies on male circumcision being organized by the National AIDS Control Commission in Rwanda, the researchers model the cost-effectiveness of circumcision at different ages.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a simple cost-effectiveness model and applied it to three hypothetical groups of Rwandans: newborn boys, adolescent boys, and adult men. For their model, the researchers calculated the effectiveness of male circumcision (the number of HIV infections averted) by estimating the reduction in the annual number of new HIV infections over time. They obtained estimates of the costs of circumcision (including the costs of consumables, staff time, and treatment of complications) from health care providers and adjusted these costs for the money saved through not needing to treat HIV in males in whom circumcision prevented infection. Using their model, the researchers estimate that each neonatal male circumcision would cost US$15 whereas each adolescent or adult male circumcision would cost US$59. Neonatal male circumcision, they report, would be cost-saving. That is, over a lifetime, neonatal male circumcision would save more money than it costs. Finally, using the WHO definition of cost-effectiveness (for a cost-effective intervention, the additional cost incurred to gain one year of life must be less than a country's per capita gross domestic product), the researchers estimate that, although adolescent circumcision would be highly cost-effective, circumcision of adult men would only be potentially cost-effective (but would likely prove cost-effective if the additional infections that would occur from men to their partners without a circumcision program were also taken into account).
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all modeling studies, the accuracy of these findings depends on the many assumptions included in the model. However, the findings suggest that male circumcision for infants for the prevention of HIV infection later in life is highly cost-effective and likely to be cost-saving and that circumcision for adolescents is cost-effective. The researchers suggest, therefore, that policy makers in Rwanda and in countries with similar HIV infection and circumcision rates should scale up male circumcision programs across all age groups, with high priority being given to the very young. If infants are routinely circumcised, they suggest, circumcision of adolescent and adult males would become a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but that would become superfluous over time. Such an approach would represent a switch from managing the HIV epidemic as an emergency towards focusing on sustainable, long-term solutions to this major public-health problem.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000211.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Seth Kalichman
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
Information is available from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on HIV infection and AIDS and on male circumcision in relation to HIV and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa, and on circumcision and HIV (some information in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision
The National AIDS Control Commission of Rwanda provides detailed information about HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (in English and French)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000211
PMCID: PMC2808207  PMID: 20098721
24.  Alzheimer's disease in the United Kingdom: developing patient and carer support strategies to encourage care in the community. 
Quality in Health Care  1997;6(3):146-152.
Alzheimer's disease is a growing challenge for care providers and purchasers. With the shift away from the provision of long term institutional care in most developed countries, there is a growing tendency for patients with Alzheimer's disease to be cared for at home. In the United Kingdom, this change of direction contrasts with the policies of the 1980s and 90s which focused more attention on controlling costs than on assessment of the needs of the patient and carer and patient management. In recent years, the resources available for management of Alzheimer's disease have focused on institutional care, coupled with drug treatment to control difficult behaviour as the disease progresses. For these reasons, the current system has led to crisis management rather than preventive support--that is, long term care for a few rather than assistance in the home before the crises occur and institutional care is needed. Despite recent innovations in the care of patients with Alzheimer's disease, the nature of the support that patients and carers receive is poorly defined and sometimes inadequate. As a result of the shift towards care in the community, the informal carer occupies an increasingly central role in the care of these patients and the issue of how the best quality of care may be defined and delivered is an issue which is now ripe for review. The objective of this paper is to redefine the type of support that patients and carers should receive so that the disease can be managed more effectively in the community. The needs of patients with Alzheimer's disease and their carers are many and this should be taken into account in defining the quality and structure of healthcare support. This paper shows how new initiatives, combined with recently available symptomatic drug treatment, can allow patients with Alzheimer's disease to be maintained at home for longer. This will have the dual impact of raising the quality of care for patients and improving the quality of life for their carers. Moreover, maintaining patients in a home environment will tend to limit public and private expenditure on institutional care due to a possible delay in the need for it.
PMCID: PMC1055476  PMID: 10173772
25.  Long-Term Care Benefits May Reduce End-of-Life Medical Care Costs 
Population Health Management  2014;17(6):332-339.
Abstract
This study explores whether personal care services for functionally dependent or cognitively impaired individuals paid for by a long-term care (LTC) insurance policy can reduce health care utilization and costs at the end of life. This retrospective study uses propensity score matching methodology, hierarchical multiple regression, and Poisson regression to compare 830 decedents who utilized benefits from a voluntary LTC insurance plan (“claimants”) to 6860 decedents who never purchased coverage but were similar to claimants on 17 variables, including age, sex, frailty, burden of illness markers, and propensity to have needed LTC services. Claimants using LTC benefits experienced significantly lower health care costs at end of life, including 14% lower total medical costs, 13% lower pharmacy costs, 35% lower inpatient admission costs, and 16% lower outpatient visit costs. They also experienced 8% fewer inpatient admissions and 10% fewer inpatient days. The presence of dementia at the end of life moderated these effects. This study suggests that use of insurance-based LTC services measurably reduces health care expenditures at the end of life. (Population Health Management 2014;17:332–339)
doi:10.1089/pop.2013.0116
PMCID: PMC4273189  PMID: 24784144

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