Balancing the Need for Guidance, Communications, and Education to Support Innovation in Personalized Medicine Diagnostics

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Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a thought-provoking panel at the PMC/BIO Solutions Summit. The summit brought together key stakeholders to discuss solutions to barriers in the development of innovative personalized medicine diagnostics. A big question for those developing potentially game-changing technologies in an increasingly cost conscious environment is the need for “Evidentiary Standards and Data Requirements for Payer Coverage.”

Determining the data requirements for coverage is becoming an increasingly frustrating issue for diagnostics manufacturers, which face rising demands for evidence but continued lack of clarity about payer standards for evidence-based decision-making, leading many to ask the question, “Why can’t payers just tell us what their standards are?” Complicating the picture is that diagnostics can come to market via different pathways with different levels of supporting evidence (e.g., companion diagnostics reviewed by FDA for clinical validity with the companion therapeutic and tests developed, validated, and introduced to the market by laboratories).

The panelists – who represented leaders from industry, non-profit advocacy, and government working to create solutions for some of these market access barriers – noted a couple of issues at play. One is that having a payer “pick list” or hard criteria for coverage removes the flexibility that is so often needed in these gray-area coverage decisions. The second is that given the volume of products they are evaluating, most payers don’t have the bandwidth to be experts in the nuances of the trial design for every technology. Third is that across all stakeholders, there is a wide range of knowledge on innovative products and personalized medicine and that basic education for the majority of stakeholders to better understand these products is lacking.

Several lessons and next steps came out of this discussion. First, panelists agreed that there must be more education for all stakeholders so that each stakeholder can actually evaluate novel products appropriately, a key finding echoed throughout the day. Second, the emphasis on outcomes must shift from only clinical outcomes to clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients. Finally, all panelists agreed the ideal situation is open, trusting lines of communication and split of the responsibility according to expertise.

At the end of the day, it may be incumbent on the molecular diagnostic community to shape the paradigm for evidence requirements so that payers can act as enablers, rather than watchdogs.

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