Vern Buchanan Champions Bill to Expands Access to New Drugs and Treatments for Seniors on Medicare

This week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., introduced a bill “to help ensure coverage of potentially life-saving drugs and new treatments for Medicare beneficiaries.”

Buchanan’s office offered some of the reasons behind the “Mandating Exclusive Review of Individual Treatments (MERIT) Act.”

“In an unprecedented move, earlier this 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). In doing so, CMS cast a very wide net by restricting coverage of any similar drugs in its class,” Buchanan’s office noted.

“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. “Unfortunately, the Biden administration and Democrats in Washington have continuously pursued policies that will stifle innovation, halt progress toward revolutionary cures and move manufacturing overseas – particularly to China.”

Despite his jabs about the Democrats, Buchanan’s only co-sponsor so far is U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif. The bill “requires the CMS to evaluate treatments and cures individually and based on their own merits, rather than as a broad class of drugs” and Buchanan’s office offered the case for it.

“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 Aduhelm 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. For example, just this week, preliminary data for a second drug to treat Alzheimer’s in the same way as Aduhelm was released and showed promise in slowing the progression of this horrible disease,” the congressman’s office noted.

“The FDA just approved a new drug to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the third drug available to treat ALS symptoms available in the United States. Without legislation like the MERIT Act requiring consideration of each drug on its own merits, CMS could implement another overly restrictive decision for any new ALS drugs based on just this one, which would inhibit access to new treatments for the nearly 30,000 ALS patients across America,” Buchanan’s office added.

The Alzheimer’s Association, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation are all backing the proposal.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committees. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

Kevin Derby
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