Springfieldian among those in Washington D.C. advocating for new class of Alzheimer’s treatment

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:35 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There’s a fight underway to get Medicare coverage for a new class of drugs that have shown promise in slowing down Alzheimer’s disease. Advocates for that coverage are in Washington D.C. this week and that group includes Springfieldian Mark Applegate, whose mother has the illness.

Applegate was among 900 peaceful protestors who gathered in front of the White House to urge the government to move quicker in the battle against Alzheimer’s. Their effort is to persuade the Medicare Health Program to provide full coverage for those age 65-and-over for the new drugs that were given accelerated approval by the FDA in January. The first of the new drugs is known as Leqembi, made by a Japanese company.

“There were a lot of people and a lot of positivity,” Applegate said of the protest. “And a lot of signs showing the loved ones that we were there advocating for. This is the only class of drugs that’s ever been approved by the FDA that’s not covered by Medicare.”

However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it won’t consider Medicare coverage for the new drugs until all the clinical trials are finished and the drugs receive full commercial approval which isn’t expected until July. Medicaid does not cover the costs either.

While July may seem like a short time away to most people, Applegate pointed out that time is a much more precious commodity to someone with Alzheimer’s, especially since the drugs need to be administered during the early stages of dementia.

“Every single day 2,000 people pass from being eligible for the trial of the new drugs to not being eligible for it,” he said. “So in a a year it will be over 600,000 people who could have potentially been helped by the drugs who aren’t going to be.”

Applegate’s 79 year-old mother is in the final stages of the disease that affects around 6.5 million Americans including 1-out-of-every-9 people age 65-or-older. Research has shown that the new treatment can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s by as much as 27 percent.

“To put that in perspective my mom has had the disease for 14 years,” Applegate said. “And it would have bought her an extra 3.75 years. To me that’s pretty significant.”

Even though the CMS told the Alzheimer’s group that they won’t consider changes to Medicare until July, the advocates will continue their efforts on Tuesday.

“Tuesday we’ll be on Capitol Hill,” Applegate said. “All 900 of us will have appointments with different representatives and different senators.”

But unless they succeed in getting changes made, anyone who wants to get the new drugs will have to come up with over $25,000 on their own to pay for a year’s worth of treatments with a few exceptions.

“The Veterans Administration announced in the last few days there will be coverage for vets which is exciting,” Applegate explained. “There is the possibility of getting it paid for by your insurance company if they’ll cover it. And if you’re able to get into a clinical trial in Kansas City, St. Louis or one of the other research centers, that can be covered with Medicare.”

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