SLS Law and Sciences Blog has the article Diseases and Apostrophes – A (Sort of) Poll, which begins:
Many disease names are in the possessive [but they aren't usually named after someone having the disease,
‘Rumplestiltskin’s Disease/Syndrome/XXXoma” etc]. They were all named
after the first physician to have described the disease, with only the
(informal but, in the US, widespread) exception of Lou Gehrig’s
disease (for which, perhaps significantly, there seems to be no
“doctor” equivalent – it is formally named after its process, as
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in the US, or motor neurone disease, in
A few years ago some disease/patient advocacy groups began arguing
that the possessive was inappropriate; the discovering doctors didn’t
“own” the disease, which, if “owned” by anyone, should be claimed by
its victims. Some authors dropped the apostrophes, others didn’t.
(And I faced this question while writing my last post, on
Alzheimer(‘)s disease.) Medical journals seem not to have reached any
consistent decision, across disease or within diseases.
Note that the result of dropping the apostrophe (by those considering its use inappropriate in these cases) is Alzheimers disease, reflecting the way the word is pronounced (but not traditional possessive/associative structure and logic), not the more normal attributive noun construct Alzheimer disease.
But this treatment of associatives-not-possessives is by no means unprecedented. Dogs homes, childrens clothing departments, working mens clubs etc have been covered here before in the Is it correct to say 'I write children books': not possessive case? Note also Robusto's answer for a medical-domain example at Achilles heel and Achilles tendon:
We don't use an apostrophe [in Achilles heel] because the tendon and
heel in question do not belong to Achilles the slayer of Hector in the
Iliad, but to someone else.
The apostrophe seems easier to discard here as the s remains naturally, not giving a scary-looking mens, childrens or Alzheimers.