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Studies of Alzheimer's Caregivers May Overlook Non-Spouses

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Patients without spouses are underrepresented in Alzheimer's disease clinical trials and this imbalance could affect the findings of the trials, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at which type of caregiver Alzheimer's patients had in six clinical trials conducted by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study. The caregivers were categorized as either spouse, adult child or "other," according to the study, which was published in the Dec. 19 online issue of the journal Neurology.

"Nationwide, half of all unpaid Alzheimer's disease caregivers are under the age of 50 and as many as 68 percent are the children, children-in-law or grandchildren of these patients," study author Joshua Grill, assistant professor of neurology at the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a journal news release.

"In contrast, in our analyses, 67 percent of the ... Alzheimer's clinical trial participants had a spouse as their [caregiver]," he said. "We found that there were several differences between people with spouse and adult child [caregivers] that could affect the results of the trials and interpretations of those results."

The type of caregiver appears to affect the risk of a patient dropping out of a clinical trial. Grill found that the risk of dropout among patients with a caregiver classified as "other" was 70 percent higher than for patients whose caregiver was their spouse.

The study also found that factors such as race and caregiver attitude also may affect patient recruitment to trials. Only 5 percent of patients in the trials were Hispanic, for example, and those with an adult-child caregiver were twice as likely as those with spouse partners to be Hispanic.

Only 6 percent of participants were black and patients with adult-child caregivers were nearly three times as likely to be black as those with spouse caregivers.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about participating in Alzheimer's disease clinical trials and studies.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Neurology, news release, Dec. 19, 2012

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