Health experts push for Alzheimer’s drug to be more affordable

KWTX News 10 at 10P
Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 4:32 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - For hundreds of Central Texans battling Alzheimer’s or Dementia, a controversial medication that could potentially treat the disease in its early stages has seen its prices cut in half.

Texas A&M Central Texas Nursing Director Amy Mersiovsky knows that damaging effects of Alzheimer’s, both professionally and personally.

“I’ve taken care of Alzheimer’s patients and it’s heartbreaking because they may not know their family members anymore, but they remember 65 years ago like they’re living in it now,” she said.

“I have an aunt who has Alzheimer’s who lives in a facility in Washington state, and she was one of the most intelligent people you’ll ever meet. However, she doesn’t remember her son, she doesn’t remember her grandchildren.”

Now, the first new FDA approved Alzheimer’s drug in nearly 20 years, Aduhelm, was cut in half. However, Alzheimer’s Association Director of Programs & Services Audrey Kwik says insurance coverage is no guarantee for a more than $28,000 per year price tag.

“Even with that, it poses too much of a barrier and obstacle,” she said.

“This makes it a treatment that only the wealthy can afford and that’s absolutely not acceptable.”

The drug reduces clumps of plaque in the brain and helps slow the disease in its earlier stages. However, many have questioned the drug’s effectiveness and the side effects that the very few who’ve taken the drug have endured.

“The studies have shown that the drug is not effective to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s,” Mersiovsky said.

“So, if you already got a patient with a lot of memory problems and cognitive decline, it’s probably not going to help them. The patients that could receive the best benefit are those just starting to get symptoms.”

Now, the U.S. health secretary has ordered Medicare to reassess the costs to see if they can be more affordable to more patients. Regardless of the controversy, many families and patients want to take the chance with the drug, with many experts in agreement.

“We’re continuing to do everything in our power to push that this and future treatments are available, no matter your income level,” Kwik said.

“If we could reverse some of the effects early, not only do we give patients a better quality of life, but it would be a better use of facilities, time and money for everyone involved,” Mersiovsky said.

“We want our patients to have the best care possible and we want it to be equitable.”

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