Holds Press Conference with Key Alzheimer’s Stakeholders
6.7 Million Americans Struggle with Alzheimer’s

SARASOTA, Fla. – Congressman Vern Buchanan today hosted a press conference with key stakeholders on his bill, the Mandating Exclusive Review of Individual Treatments (MERIT) Act, which would help ensure coverage of potentially life-saving drugs and new treatments for seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“The federal government should make it easier for seniors to access breakthrough treatments, not unreasonably restrict potentially life-changing drugs for our nation’s most vulnerable patients,” said Buchanan. “By requiring drugs to be evaluated for Medicare coverage based on their own merit, my legislation would help American’s suffering with Alzheimer’s access these FDA approved treatments.”

In an unprecedented move, last year unelected bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unilaterally restricted coverage for the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (Aduhelm) in nearly two decades, despite prior approval from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Similarly, another new drug to treat Alzheimer’s was approved by the FDA, but due to the wide net cast by CMS in restricting similar drugs to Aduhelm, it is not eligible for Medicare coverage. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, did cover this new drug for our nation’s veterans suffering with Alzheimer’s.

To protect similar drugs from future bureaucratic overreach, Buchanan’s MERIT Act requires the CMS to evaluate treatments and cures individually and based on their own merits, rather than as a broad class of drugs.

At the press conference, Buchanan was joined by:

  • Ryan Schiff, Public Policy Manager, Alzheimer’s Association, State of Florida
  • Michele Hall, Bradenton Alzheimer’s patient, and her husband Doug
  • Dr. Clifton Gooch, Chair, USF Department of Neurology

Schiff said, “Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough County alone account for over 62,000 of the half a million Floridians with Alzheimer’s Disease. Thanks to our champions in Congress like Congressman Buchanan, we are in the golden age of research and innovation to put an end to Alzheimer's and other related dementias once and for all.”

Hall said, “By requiring CMS to review each drug individually, the MERIT Act will undo the actions taken by CMS that would otherwise unnecessarily limit access to drugs like Lecanemab for seniors. With additional drugs to treat Alzheimer’s preparing to come to market soon, this bill will ensure those drugs receive fair and accurate consideration for coverage, rather than requiring onerous additional steps before CMS will make them available to Medicare beneficiaries. We are grateful that [Buchanan] represent[s] us in Florida Congressional District 16, and we are thankful for [his] continued work and dedication on this very important issue.”

Dr. Gooch said, “We need the MERIT Act. We need action taken to be able to make these drugs accessible to patients who need them – Alzheimer’s patients. Every day, about 2,000 patients will progress from the mild form of the disease, where these drugs work best, to the moderate to severe form of the disease, where the drugs may not work at all … So every day of delay means 2,000 more people may not be able to benefit from these medications.”

The MERIT Act is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation.

Buchanan penned an op-ed in the Bradenton Herald on CMS’s restriction of Aduhelm last year.

In addition to being the vice chairman and most senior Republican on the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Buchanan is also the chairman of the Health Subcommittee, which has broad jurisdiction over traditional Medicare, the Medicare prescription drug benefit program and Medicare Advantage.