David S. Klimstra, MD
The use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) to diagnose cancers and guide therapy decisions is expanding as more therapies are linked to genomic abnormalities. But advances in molecular testing face headwinds in the near term as clinicians struggle to manage the wealth of data produced by tests and payers balk at covering expensive assays backed by sparse evidence for improved outcomes.
Figure. FDA's Approach to NGS Tumor-Profiling Tests
However, the federal review process also underscores the hurdles that laboratories face as they seek broader acceptance of their products. Although testing companies and oncologists have applauded CMS for addressing the question of NGS coverage, many have also expressed dismay at the accompanying restrictions. Under the draft policy, CMS would only pay for tests that are FDA approved or cleared or are being used in National Cancer Institute-sponsored trials and would not cover retesting using the same test, among other limitations.1
A decision is due February 28, 2018.
Table. FDA-Approved NGS Tumor-Profiling Tests
“What it would basically do is deny payment for the vast majority of assays currently being offered, unless they follow our lead and obtain FDA clearance. Even then, it’s a rather restrictive subset of cancer types that would be covered,” said David S. Klimstra, MD, chair of the Department of Pathology at MSK. He said he is also concerned that CMS’ proposed policy would essentially expand FDA authority over the assays without the usual congressional oversight. Such assays are currently considered laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) that do not need FDA approval.
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