Senator Collins Calls for Increased Funding for Alzheimer’s Research & Broader Access to Alzheimer’s Therapies
Washington, D.C. — At a hearing to review the fiscal year budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research. In addition, Senator Collins questioned the Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Dr. Richard Hodes, on the devastating effect the Centers for Medicaid Services’ (CMS) refusal to provide coverage for FDA-approved Alzheimer’s therapies is having on families in Maine and throughout the country.
On funding for Alzheimer’s research, Senator Collins said:
In my judgment, there is no investment that pays greater dividends to American families than our investment in biomedical research. And that is why I've been such a strong supporter of NIH, and I will continue to be one.
We are very fortunate that all of those who are on this Committee share that view, including the Chair and the Vice Chair of this Subcommittee. That is why I am puzzled at the flat funding for Alzheimer's research. We have made real investments that help the 6.7 million Americans, aged 65 and older, who are currently living with Alzheimer's, and those who care for them. And we know that this number is on a trajectory to double by 2060.
Alzheimer's is also one of our nation's most costly diseases; and it's one of the leading causes of death among seniors. As a Senator representing the oldest state in the nation, this is of particular concern to me. And as a person who lost her father, her grandfather and two uncles to this devastating disease, I know, personally, what this means to American families. So, I hope that we can correct the flat funding, and continue the trajectory that we have been on.
Calling for greater access to Alzheimer’s therapies, Senator Collins said:
I want to commend the National Institute on Aging. You have been essential, in your institute, in sustaining the progress that we have been making. And we've seen an exciting, new class of treatments… that could delay or slow the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms.
…I'm so frustrated that these new therapies—based on sound science, approved by the FDA—are not reaching patients because of CMS’ inexplicable determination that they are not reasonable and necessary for seniors.
While this is being finally sorted out, it is so sad, because these treatments are most effective when they're given early, when people are in the early stages of Alzheimer's. So, the patients who would benefit the most, are not receiving access to this medication.
Dr. Hodes, in your view, what would broader access to these disease-modifying therapies mean for patients?
…the FDA and CMS have regulatory authorities that are distinct from NIH. But from an NIH perspective, as you've said, the therapies that have become available now are the clear outcome result of research supported by NIH.
In fact… one of the drugs is now being studied in three trials, directly funded by NIA. One of which, for example, is treating individuals before any symptoms, so, at an even earlier stage than before, a so-called secondary prevention trial.
Through these, we're trying to work for exposure to more diverse populations. And in terms of what this could mean to the public, we are preparing—when final FDA approvals and CMS coverage occurs—to do what we can to monitor and ensure that we understand, in populations that are diverse, rural, urban, racial, ethnic, which are likely to differ in just which treatment, what time is best, that we have the infrastructure and the trials in place to optimize their impact on society. This is the next stage, having first found successful interventions, to learn from these first leads and to optimize them.
So, I agree with you, the impact on the broad population can be huge, and it's our research commitment to make sure that we are prepared to assess this.
As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget request. These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.
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