Do we want continued progress in personalized medicine, or don’t we? Based on events last week, the answer might be ‘both.’ I attended a press conference here in Washington that celebrated the achievements made by the health sector in our efforts to turn cancer from a sure death sentence into a chronic disease. Simultaneous to this, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) proposed policies to offset the cost of a physician payment fix under Medicare. The disconnect between the two was striking. Unfortunately, the MedPAC proposals have the unintended effect of heavily impacting those on the leading edge of personalized medicine. Of the $233 billion in 10-year savings, $114 billion would come out of the biopharmaceutical and clinical laboratory sectors, thus possibly robbing seniors of access to the latest targeted therapies and the diagnostics used to guide them. The proposal includes savings from giving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) new authority to impose “least costly alternative” payment, which would result in locking us into our current one-size-fits-all medical paradigm and weakening physicians’ power to tailor care using diagnostics and targeted therapies. Another troubling aspect of these suggestions is that they propose cuts by sector, ignoring the reality that personalized medicine brings efficiencies to the system of health care.
The proposal appears to reflect a lack of awareness of the impact that personalized medicine is making in health care and underscores the importance of the Personalized Medicine Coalition’s legislative work. One of our policy suggestions, released over the summer, calls for inclusion of a personalized medicine representative on MedPAC and the creation of a new personalized medicine advisory committee to foster alignment of the policies across the entire Department of Health and Human Services with the science of personalized medicine. Personalized medicine challenges the status quo in medicine – the blockbuster business model, diagnostic coding and payment, or health care delivery systems. Maybe it’s time it challenged MedPAC, too.