Patients, Physicians, and Industry Leaders Hold Briefing on Role of Amyloid PET Scans in Alzheimer’s Research

01.29.20

Washington, D.C. – The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), along with the Council on Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals, Inc. (CORAR) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), today hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill with physicians, patients, and industry representatives to discuss the growing importance of access to amyloid PET imaging for diagnosis, research, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Event speakers also addressed the need for fair payment for radiopharmaceuticals and passage of the Medicare Diagnostic Radiopharmaceutical Payment Equity Act of 2019 (H.R. 3772).

Speakers included Alzheimer’s patient and caregiver team Geri and Jim Taylor; co-Director of the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Dr. William Klunk; and Dr. Gersham Dent, Senior Director of Clinical Imaging at Biogen.

Michael Guastella, Executive Director of CORAR, began the event by providing a brief overview of the role of amyloid PET scans in Alzheimer’s treatment and clinical research. He then introduced Geri and Jim Taylor to share their personal story. Geri’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was confirmed through an amyloid PET scan and led to her participation in a Biogen clinical drug trial.

“Only when my amyloid PET scan results were positive did I know definitively that I had Alzheimer’s,” said Geri. “The daily uncertainty in my life was resolved.” She and her husband, Jim, now advocate for increasing Alzheimer’s clinical trial participation, which is dependent on access to amyloid PET imaging.

“Geri and I are here because we so adamantly believe that the coverage and payment issues related to Alzheimer’s PET scans must be corrected,” shared Jim. “The issue of low participation in clinical research goes hand-in-hand with the radiopharmaceutical reimbursement issue discussed here today.”

William Klunk, MD, PhD, and co-inventor of the first amyloid imaging radiotracer, Pittsburgh Compound-B, elaborated on the history of advancements in amyloid PET scans and the role they play in the diagnosis and development of treatment plans.

“Relative to past diagnostic approaches, amyloid PET scans allow us to track disease progression in a way that is clear and striking,” said Klunk. “Put in simpler terms, these tools are shining a light on important dimensions of the disease that were previously unclear.”

Gersham Dent, Ph.D., MBA, and Senior Director of Development Imaging at Biogen rounded out the speaker panel with a presentation on the importance of amyloid PET imaging in Alzheimer’s disease drug development.

“Amyloid imaging is used to select the right patients for clinical trials,” shared Dent. “Amyloid imaging may be critical for patient identification when therapies enter the market, and patients can benefit from new therapies only if infrastructure issues are addressed and appropriate reimbursement is in place.”

Unfortunately, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services currently treats radiopharmaceuticals, including the drug needed for amyloid PET scans, as part of the packaged cost of the procedure in hospital outpatient settings. This structure disincentivizes the utilization of many radiopharmaceuticals in the Medicare hospital outpatient setting, which leads to limited patient access and stifled innovation.

For this reason, Sue Bunning, MITA Industry Director of Molecular Imaging & PET, concluded the event by encouraging Members of Congress and their staff to support the Medicare Diagnostic Radiopharmaceutical Payment Equity Act of 2019 (H.R. 3772) as a solution to address structural flaws in the current payment methodology and grant greater access to life-saving diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals for patients. Sponsored by Congressmen Scott Peters (CA-52), Bobby Rush (IL-1), and George Holding (NC-2), the bill has bipartisan support from 14 co-sponsors.

“Passage of H.R. 3772 is critical for the millions of Alzheimer’s patients who deserve access to these ground-breaking diagnostic tools. I urge Congress to support the Medicare Diagnostic Radiopharmaceutical Payment Equity Act,” Bunning concluded.

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