Doctors fight to ensure stroke patients get access to medications they need

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Mid-South doctors are fighting to ensure that stroke patients continue to get access to medications they need to stay alive.

The issue is insurance companies such as CVS Caremark are offering alternative medications that the two doctors say are not as effective and could be dangerous.

The drug being denied to some patients is called Eliquis.

“We found this in Memphis, but I think it is a national issue,” Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, a stroke neurologist and the chairman of neurology at the UT Health Science Center, said.

It’s an issue that could severely impact the outcome of stroke patients.

“We will have a lot more folks going to the hospital with bleeding and that’s already happened on my watch with folks in Memphis,” Dr. Alexandrov said.

Dr. Alexandrov recently found out that Eliquis, a medication used to prevent blood clots and stroke, is no longer covered for patients with CVS Caremark prescription insurance.

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A letter from CVS Caremark sent to a patient shows the company is asking people to switch to the drug Xarelto.

Dr. Alexandrov said this could lead to internal bleeding in some patients.

“Xarelto is a less safe drug than Eliquis because of bleeding. That’s point number one,” he said. “They will likely end up having more strokes, because Xarelto is no better than Warfarin, and that is a step backwards.”

Dr. John Jefferies, the chairman of the cardiovascular institute at Methodist Le Bonheur, said Caremark’s current policy gives patients the impression the two medications are the same, but he said they are very different.

“We think Eliquis is better, and we have the science to prove that,” he said. “People are going to suffer, and this is going to cause more mortality because of the switch that I think is just a poorly informed decision.”

Both doctors say they haven’t gotten a response from CVS Caremark about why the decision was made.

They said they will continue to raise awareness by letting patients and employers know what is happening.

FOX13 also reached out to CVS Caremark for a response but hasn’t heard back.