PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The Alzheimer’s Association is fighting mad and they’re taking their beef to Washington next week.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied coverage of two Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The CMS also said “no” to the Alzheimer’s Association’s request for them to reconsider. The Alzheimer’s Association is not giving up.

“We are perplexed, we don’t understand why they are not approving the use of these drugs for the people that need them most,” Wardenia Lassiter told WAVY.

Lassiter is an advocate who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. At the time, doctors had little to offer, least of all hope.

Now, Dr. Hamid Okhravi, Director of the Memory Consultation Clinic at EVMS said two new drugs, Aducanumab and Lecanemab are showing promising results.

“The drug is shown to have an effect in removing amyloid plaques from patients brains and those plaques we think cause Alzheimer’s,” Okhravi said.

The FDA granted approval for both drugs, under an accelerated program.

This allows earlier approval of drugs that treat serious conditions for which there is an unmet medical need.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, however, won’t pay for the treatments that cost upwards of $25,000 a year.

“And that’s why we’re angry, and that’s why we’re mad, and that’s why we’re fighting,” Lassiter said.

CMS released a statement in February in response to the Alzheimer’s Association’s request to reconsider.

It said “CMS is required to examine whether a medication is reasonable and necessary.”
and that “as of the date of this letter, there is not yet evidence meeting the criteria for reconsideration.”

The FDA should review phase three of the Lecanemab study this summer. If fully approved by the FDA, the CMS should revisit approval.

But, for thousands, if not millions of Americans, doctors argue that they must not wait. Time is of the essence for these medications that are designed for early stage, mild memory loss.

“There shouldn’t be any roadblock to be able to give those medications to our patients that are in need,” Okrhavi said.

If they wait too long, it will be too late. That’s why protestors are going to rally for access at noon, May 24 at the Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters at 200 Independence Ave. in Washington, D.C.

“We want to show them that we mean business,” Lassiter said.

More information

For more information about the rally and the Alzheimer’s Association, go here.