CENTRAL TEXAS — The Alzheimer’s Association is angry at Medicare’s decision to limit a new FDA-approved drug to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug, called Aduhelm, is the first treatment approved in the United States to slow cognitive decline.
“There is no cure. There is no slowing down. No prevention. And no one, and I mean like family, should have to go through that. It’s awful,” said Melody Lee, Ambassador for Alzheimer’s (TX) District 17, 22, 56, 59.
Alzheimer’s disease lives in 400,000 Texans.
“You go backwards as far as your thinking goes, you know, your brain goes backwards,” Lee said.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say it covers Aduhelm for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, but only for those who participate in clinical trials — which the Alzheimer’s Association says rules out a significant number of people.
“Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, we believe they have a right to these therapies as soon as they become available. So do those with cancer, heart disease, HIV, AIDS,” said Sydney Thomas, of the North Central and West Texas chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association.
For Melody Lee, wife of FOX 44 General Manager Mike Lee, this disease strikes close to home.
“My mother had it. Also, my mother-in-law had some. And my husband’s aunt. I mean, we now think looking back, my grandfather had it on my mother’s side. My uncle on my maw-maw side had it,” Lee said.
In a statement, Alzheimer’s Association CEO Harry Johns called the proposed decision “shocking discrimination against all people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
“They want only people who can do trials, like paying for them or partially paying for them, to have the drug. It is very expensive. You do it, like, every four weeks, and it can cost $2,000 each time,” Lee said.
Medicare made the announcement earlier this month saying, “When determining national coverage, we assess the evidence related to our analytical questions based on the quality, strength, and completeness of the evidence presented in the literature reviewed.
“Medicare is asking people to pay premiums for treatment, a life-threatening condition, and they may not receive FDA-approved treatment,” Thomas said.
If approved, the draft decision could cover all future Alzheimer’s drugs.
“If this decision is approved, it means that it does not only affect Aduhelm. It involves this whole class of amyloid-treating drugs,” Thomas added.
Medicare is now waiting for a 30-day public comment period to finalize the decision in April.
“Don’t make it so exclusive. Do it where it is available for these different people. Different nationalities, different genders,” Lee said.