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Push for Wider Availability

The Alzheimer's Association is pushing for a controversial Alzheimer's disease drug to be more widely available the US, the New York Times reports.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Biogen's Aduhelm (aducanumab) last June. But that approval was controversial, as one study suggested the drug was effective while another did not and as the FDA approved the drug despite an advisory panel recommending against doing so.

As its clinical benefit is unclear, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in January that it would only cover Aduhelm for patients enrolled in clinical trials. At that time, some physicians told the Washington Post the decision by CMS was "a good compromise."

According to the Times, the Alzheimer's Association, an advocacy group, has since responded with a wide-ranging campaign — including organizing tweets and emails aimed at lawmakers as well as social media and other ads — to urge lawmakers to call on the agency to make the drug more widely covered. The group, it adds, has called the restrictions "shocking discrimination against everyone with Alzheimer's disease."

The Times says, though, that the group's campaign does not address the questions of efficacy and safety. It adds that even some supporters of the organization say the restrictions are appropriate.

CMS is to make its final decision on April 11, according to the Times.