Monday, October 15, 2018

Very Brief Blog: CMS Issues One of the Most Unusual CMS Regulations Ever (Drug Pricing on TV)

On October 15, 2018, CMS released proposed regulations requiring advertisements to include drug pricing information, if they are drugs that are covered under Medicare "directly or indirectly."

  • See a trade journal article here.
  • See the actual 42 page proposed regulation here

Since this is directed at consumer ads, it is a bit surprising to see it as falling under CMS's legal authority rather than e.g. some other part of HHS or maybe the FTC.   The regulations on price advertisement will be tucked among other routine CMS regulations at 42 CFR 403.1200ff.

CMS Works to Justify Why It Can Do This

Anticipating reactions between skepticism and surprise, CMS dives directly into a long and elaborate discussion of whether it has authority to regulate content of TV ads because it pays for drugs. 

Many pages of the regulation read exactly like a court case legal brief, citing a dizzying range of court cases and precedents.  For example, Massachusetts Law 94 295C requires retail dealers of motor fuel to public display on each pump the price per gallon.  Well, yes.  And in the same way, 7 CFR 59.301(a) and (b) (2018) require that meat packer processing plants must daily report to the Secretary of Agriculture the sale price for lambs.

Preparing the reader for the argument on the table, that CMS can regulate the TV display of drug prices, CMS notes that Section 1102(a) of the SSA allows CMS to make "such rules and regulations...as may be necessary to the efficient administration of functions" under the SSA.   Section 1871(a) allows CMS to "prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the programs."

CMS "has concluded that the proposed rule has a clear nexus to the Social Security Act."   They note that CMS spent $174B in 2016 on Part B & D drugs, and $64B on Medicaid drugs.  This $238B was 53% of $448B spent on "retail and non retail" prescription drugs.

Most of the CMS regulation is about consumer behavior and consumer advertising, something never directly addressed in the enabling legislation for Medicare and Medicaid.

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There is a 60-day comment period (about December 15, 2018). The regulation is CMS-4187-P.

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See a trade journal article in MedCityNews - noting that only New Zealand and US allow DTC drug advertising; here.  PHRMA had been discussing voluntary price disclosure guidelines.  For some additional ins and outs of drug price transpareny, MedCityNews also here.

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Note that this isn't primarily about drug prices - you can get many drug prices for free by digging around the CMS website - it's about locking those prices into bold print in TV ads.

Very Brief Blog: Tracking Scott Gottlieb's 20-Tweet Tweetorial on Drug Price Competition

This past week, President Trump signed legislation on drug price transparency, including specific authorities for FTC to pursue companies that work to block market entry of biosimilars.  For entry points see CNN here and BioPharmaDive here, BioSpace here.

FDA"s Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is also active in public forums at promoting drug price competition.  This weekend, he released an elaborate 20-tweet "Sunday Tweetorial" on all the efforts he's promoting at FDA to increase U.S. drug price competition, here, by speeding the entry of generics.   Historically, and in most cases, prices fall once there are several generics in a market.
  • You should be able to see and read the Sunday Tweetorial here in sequence.
  • I've put a PDF of the whole tweetorial in the cloud, here.
    • Read as a 15 page PDF.   
  • This is Gottlieb's twitter feed.  @SGottliebFDA
    • As of today, 6220 tweets.


Gottlieb is often outspoken on market entry forces (and the government's role).  See his address on antibiotics policy in mid September 2018 (here) and his views on antibiotics pricing paradigms from June 2018 (here).

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See the HHS Drug Pricing Homepage here including the Administration's May 2018 drug pricing blueprint ("Patients First," PDF, 44pp.)
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Interestingly, given the rising billions of dollars in biologicals, the Biosimilars Competition Act received an "unofficial 10 year score" from CBO of only $100M, according to one source, here.  See the July House version HR 6478  here.   FDA Law Blog here.

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The day after Sunday's Tweetorial by Gottlieb, CMS released proposed regulations requiring advertisements to include drug pricing information, if they are drugs that are covered under Medicare "directly or indirectly."   Since this is directed at consumer ads, it is a bit surprising to see it as falling under CMS's legal authority rather than e.g. some other part of HHS or the FTC.   Here is a trade journal article and here is the 42 page draft regulation in PDF.  The regualations on price advertisement would be tucked among other CMS regulations at 42 CFR 403.1200ff.

CMS dives directly into a discussion of whether it has authority to regulate content of TV ads because it pays for drugs.   CMS notes that Section 1102(a) of the SSA allows CMS to make "such rules and regulations...as may be necessary to the efficient administration of functions" under the SSA.   Section 1871(a) allows CMS to "prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the programs."  CMS "has concluded that the proposed rule has a clear nexus to the Social Security Act."   They note that CMS spent $174B in 2016 on Part B & D drugs, and $64B on Medicaid drugs.  This $238B was 53% of $448B spent on "retail and non retail" prescription drugs. 


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Very Brief Blog: ACLA's PAMA Lawsuit Tossed from Federal Court in September 2018

Last winter, ACLA filed a lawsuit against CMS for inappropriate implementation of the PAMA lab pricing law, resulting in underpricing of new median rates for lab tests.  The primary concern was that CMS had written, interpreted, or implemented the PAMA law's conditions in a way that nearly  excluded reporting by hospital reference labs. 

News sources reported circa September 24, 2018, that a US district court judge had dismissed ACLA's case on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction.
  • For the 33 page, December 11, 2017 complaint, see here.
  • For an open access 13 page PDF of the judge's dismissal, see here.
  • For open access reporting on the September 2018 dismissal, see MedTechDive here.  Fierce Healthcare here.  HealthLeaders here.  Seeking Alpha here ("Labcorp down 2%").  Becker's here.  Reuters here.
    • For coverage and quotes at 360DX, here.
  • For ACLA's statement on the dismissal, here.
  • For CAP's statement lamenting the dismissal, here.

The judge's decision is readable and hinges on Congress's statute that shields PAMA 216 from judicial review.   ACLA had attempted to parse the procedures for setting up the rules (which they object to) from the actual fee schedule rates, which were clearly shielded from judicial reviews.  Judge is dismissive of ACLA's position, and uses quotations from the law to show (in her view) the shield from judicial review applies to all of PAMA 216.   This follows an earlier discussion that "federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" and rather like a person is innocent until proven guilty, cases are assumed to be outside judicial review until proven they are inside it.   There is an interesting twist on page 12 (that Congress required PAMA implementation through notice and comment rulemaking, so it is inconsistent to shield that rulemaking from judicial review, as it enabled the Secretary potentially to undertake reckless (but required) notice-and-comment rulemaking with no later recourse for stakeholders).*  However, this interesting side-road does not change the decision.


Separately: for ACLA's comment on Summer 2018 Part B rulemaking, which includes extensive comments on PAMA, see here.  AMP's 5-page letter on Part B rulemaking is here.  CAP's website for CMS letters appears to list its September 2016 and September 2017 PFS comment letters but not its September 2018 letter. CAP does have webinar slides on the PFS 2019 proposals (here).


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Footnotes.
As a non-attorney working full time on federal policy, I've always been puzzled by laws written by Congress which include a clause stating the implementation of the law is "shielded from judicial review."  Checks and balances?

According to news reports, the judge's dismissal hinges on lack of jurisdiction.  Even if the judge had jurisdiction, the section of law regarding which labs can report (with a 50% rule regarding Medicare Part B billings) is (or was or remains) problematic to craft around the issue of hospital labs.  ACLA  offers a mathematical solution on pages 9-11 of its comment letter.

CMS proposed to use 1450 claims forms in regard to its definition of hospital reference lab reporting.  AMP and ACLA seem to take diametrically opposed positions on the wisdom of this CMS suggestion.

From summer proposed rulemaking, 1799 documents to the 2019 rule (CMS 1693 P) cited "PAMA" (here).

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* As quoted by judge:  ACLA wrote, "It would raise constitutional concerns of the highest order if Congress were to require the Secretary to promulgate substantive legislative regulations that directly regulate primary conduct on threat of civil penalties but then [also] attempt to insulate those regulations and the Secretary's enforcement of them, from any form of judicial review."   [Decision, page 12].

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Very Brief Blog: Baker Tilly's Checklist for Medical Devices & Market-Facing Evidence

This week, MedCityNews runs an article on, "What can digital health companies learn from medical devices?" in terms of evidence and reimbursement success.  Here.

Inside that, find a link to a "Market Access Checklist" from Baker Tilly, presented as a one page PDF infographic.   Download it here.

While the checklist is commonsensical to reimbursement experts, it may be an eye opener to newer investors, CEO's, or board members.   Topics include:

  1. Clinical Evidence
  2. Economic Evidence
  3. Medical Society Guidelines
  4. Provider Communications
I would say....Yup.

Regarding communications, I ran across a quote from a 1976 booklet called "Thoughts of Jerry Brown."  Regarding the endless funding requests and justifications that crossed his desk as governor, he wrote:  "Even though they might be right, if they can't clearly state their case such that I can understand it, in the limits of time available, then I'm voting no.  That's my philosophy."   I'd suggest you assume the medical director at CMS or BCBS is thinking the same way.

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Baker Tilly is a "full service accounting and advisory firm."  The cited MedCityNews articles is preparatory to a conference and features, among others, an interview with Baker Tilly's principal, David Gregory.  For his 2016 deck, "The Value Driven Provider," here.

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If you enjoyed Baker Tilly's four-point evaluation program for market entry and reimbursement, consider these two posts.   The first is a "12 step program" for what VCs should consider when investing in healthcare technology.   The second is about medtech and payers.

Venture Valkyrie blog, 12 steps to VC investment due diligence, here.
Venture Valkyrie blog, medtech and payers, here.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Very Brief Blog: $28M in All of Us Genomics Awards: Centers Span Coasts, Silicon Valley to Boston

On September 25, 2018, the NIH All-Of-Us program announced plans to sequence 1M genomes via initial funding at $28M to three genomics consortia.

The first brings together Boston's Partners Laboratory for Molecular Medicine, the Broad Institute, and Color Genomics in Silicon Valley. 

The second brings together Baylor, UT-Houston, and Johns Hopkins.

The third is run solo by University of Washington (Northwest Genomics Center). 

Click to enlarge.  Don't bother if you're in a flyover state.

  • See the NIH press release here.
  • See the Broad Institute press release here.
    • Color will analyze, interpret, and report results from the genomic data sequenced at Broad, working in collaboration with the Partners LMM, which will manage an expert team to address the most challenging genomic variants. 
  • Genomeweb here.
    • The funding announcement was issued in May 2018 (see technical Q&A here) with applications due in July 2018.
    • For a December 2017 report on what All of Us expected to be asking for (e.g. including its rising emphasis on exome/genome), here.
I'm not an expert on the greater Harvard system nomenclature, but my understanding is that Partners Lab for Molecular Medicine serves as a central germline clinical genetic center for Harvard-related hospitals.  According to Genomeweb, MLL director Heidi Reim "left for MGH's Center for Genomic Medicine" in August.

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Collateral Ideas

If you're interested in All Of us collecting genetic and phenotypic data on huge numbers of people for future use, you might be interested in LunaDNA.  It's "the first people powered platform where you share data, advance science, and take part in the value created" and received $4M from Illumina Ventures (and others) in May 2018.  See a July 2018 article here. LunaDNA will be able to "issue company shares in exchange for genomic data," here.

If you're interested in Partners LMM as a cross-organizational hub for genetics in the diverse health system, you might be interested in the history of the MGH Pathology Department, where the chapters of a recent 300 page book are online as PDFs here.

For interests in The Broad Institute, a May 2018 podcast with Amalio Telenti (a pioneer in the area of molecular multi drug resistant bacteria) on his sabbatical at the Broad, here.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Very Brief Blog: Guardant Health Raises $238M in IPO; Stock Reaches $33

According to Investors Business Daily and Yahoo Finance, Guardant Health garnered some $238M in an IPO. 

The projected or actual share price has moved upward.  Early estimates forecast an IPO at $15-17 a share, while the final IPO finally priced at $19 a share. Rising above that, the market opened at $27 a share, and during Day One, shares rose as high as $33. 

Market cap was $1.6B according to one trade journal (here).   I believe that's at the nominal $19 per share price.  That market cap value compares favorably to the circa $550M invested so far.

Guardant Health received Medicare coverage for its liquid biopsy gene panel test this past summer (here), for lung cancer patients.

Click to enlarge: Yahoo Finance screen shot




CMS Releases Widespread Changes to LCD Process !

On October 3, 2018, CMS released a 32-page PDF that lays out substantial changes to the LCD creation and review process.
  • See the actual CMS document here.  
    • It's filed as "Change Request 10901."
  • See Medicare's own summary of the change here at the CMS Fact Sheet center.
    • Administrator's Blog covers the change, here.
  • See trade press at MedTechDive here.
    • Headline is, "Speed access to medical technologies."
    • I don't see that.  Every acceptable LCD request (e.g. new info submitted) seems to require a full LCD publication, comment, and review process, including entering a formally named backlog.   If a MAC can do 15 LCDs a year and gets 100 requests that "qualify," then it has a ten-year-backlog right there.  A manufacturer might also complain that its product never-ever leaves the "backlog" for opaque reasons.
  • See trade press at HealthCareFinance News, here.
This change primarily implements new law in the 21st Century Cures bill from a couple years ago.  However, it incorporates some other changes CMS has been planning over a period of years.

Note that there is ANOTHER, NEWER piece of LCD law that was recently passed at the House and is sitting at the Senate, H.R. 3635.  This bill has been supported by AdvaMed, CAP, and other groups.   See entry points and links on that topic here.


Contractor advisory meetings will be open to the public and webinar access will be allowed.  There will be an option to request, not only to revise, an LCD (13.2.2.2).   Preliminary meetings with stakeholders are allowed but not required (13.2.2.1).  MACs will be required to have a standardized format for summarizing evidence.   Draft LCDs will expire after 1 year if not finalized.

No Pre-emptive LCDs?

The format seems to make it impossible to make pre-emptive LCDs with no further explanation.  For example, LCDs that simply add the names of 20 or 30 new AMA CPT category III codes to a listing of non-covered codes.  Doing that wouldn't meet the requirements for evidence review and explanation.

What Is An "Explanation?"

Come key points remain unchanged (although perhaps reformatted).  For example, a reconsideration request shall receive an explanation of why the request was invalid.  In the past, that explanation (sic) has been in some cases, a clear two paragraph discussion.  But in other cases, the "explanation" has been a mere preemptive phrase "Evidence not sufficient" (3 words).

Consider the NCD Format

NCDs have a now-classic format where, after a decision summary and some introductory material, there are two main sections.  The first is "Evidence Summary."  (Smith et al. 2015 is a 300 patient RCT showing A, B, and C with one year outcome data.)    The next section is "Analysis."   (Smith et al. is an RCT against the standard of care, but we believe a different standard of care would be an important comparator.  We see several risks for bias in the trial design, including X, Y, Z.)   Analysis supports a final "Conclusion."   The LCD content isn't quite the same but the NCD structure provides a backdrop.

LCD "Content" Bullets: Section 13.5.3
"In every proposed and final LCD, the MAC must summarize the evidence that supports coverage, limited  coverage, maintenance of existing coverage in cases of LCD reconsideration or non-coverage.  At a minimum, the summary should include the following:     • a complete description of the item or service under review; • a narrative that describes the scientific evidence supporting the clinical indications for the item or service;  • the target Medicare population; and • whether the item or service is intended for use by health care providers or beneficiaries. 
If the item or service is regulated by the FDA, and determined by the MAC to be reasonable and necessary, information regarding the use of the item or service subject to the FDA indication, as applicable, shall be included.   
In conducting a review, MACs shall use the available evidence of general acceptance by the medical community, such as published original research in peer-reviewed medical journals, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, evidence-based consensus statements and clinical guidelines.  Proprietary information, submitted by a requestor, not available to the public shall not be considered. Medicare data considered as part of the evidence review for an LCD shall be reported in the evidence summary."  [Also, MACs may consult associations or experts; 13.2.3).

Role for a "Dossier"

Depending on the topic, stakeholders may prepare a very long "Dossier" or evidence summary.  This is accepted practice in some circles, for example, new drugs, where there is a template for an AMCP dossier on the drug.   However, I have also seen cases where CMS medical directors pay very little attention to a "dossier" but simple set it to one side and focus instead on the submitted PDFs of published trials.   The new instructions say that "proprietary evidence submitted by the requester shall not be considered."

However, an earlier section also requires the request to "address the relevance, usefulness, clinical health outcomes, or medical benefits" and "fully explain the design, purpose, of the item or service and "a justification supported by the peer reviewed evidence."  That sounds like a "dossier."  So you have to write up a justification of the evidence and explanation, but not say any proprietary concepts or ideas while doing so since only published evidence is considered.

Recordings

"MACs shall record (video, audio or both) the CAC meetings and as part of the LCD record, assure the recording is maintained on their contractor website." [13.2.4.3]   This is interesting in that some public CMS meetings are webcast, but, are as of now no longer archived on the CMS website or CMS youtube channel although CMS had done so in past years.  (My article on this, here).

Valid LCD Request => Reopening?

If I read this correctly, a "valid LCD request" results in a reopening of the LCD or putting the LCD on the MAC's waiting list.  [13.3.3]

This is a big change, since previously most reconsideration requests were handled by medical director staff resulting in a letter back to the requester.  This could also create a lot of confusion, since some reconsideration requests point out, for example, an omitted ICD-10 code, which the contractor would add to the LCD in a week or two, without a year's adventure in the LCD process.   I'm not sure I have interpreted this section correctly.

I think the "escape valve" (stated in the CMS press release) is that ICD10 codes and CPT codes are being moved OUTSIDE the LCD itself (as they are outside an NCD).   This could either allow a lot of flexibility, or a lot of mischief, depending on your level of paranoia. MACs must follow "the full reconsideration process for valid requests" but the code lists are no longer inside the LCD, so it is a bit of a puzzle.

Unintended Consequences?

Formerly, the LCD chapter had a clear statement of if and when an LCD had to be reopened through a public process.  Additions could be handled by simply expanding the LCD and posting it (no comment process).  Restrictions had to be handled through the full LCD posting and comment process.   Here, any requested changes (even a correction or minor expansion) appears to require the lengthy full LCD process.  The result could both delay coverage and create interminable backlogs, if I read it correctly.



Will the rules speed access or create a years-long LCD backlog list?



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

FDA Authorizes Highly Novel Sequencing Test; FDA Cites Commitment to Genomic Innovation

On September 28, 2018, FDA issued a press release with extensive comments by Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb regarding availability of a novel form of sequencing for use in acute leukemia (ALL).

The test is the ClonoSEQ in vitro diagnostic, which will be able to offer new levels of sensitivity in detecting minimum residual disease (MRD).   The test can be positioned as a more sensitive alternative to conventional flow cytometry or PCR assays.   It produces a patient-specific or "fingerprint" analysis with sensitivities below 1 per million cells.  ClonoSEQ uses PCR amplification of target sequences and NGS detection.

FDA Praises Its Commitment to Genomic Innovation, While Calling for Legislative Improvements

Gottlieb speaks of the test as "an important step forward for patients suffering from ALL and multiple myeloma."

In addition, he highlighted that FDA itself is "continuing to maximize opportunities for innovation" and that "The FDA is applying novel regulatory approaches to make sure that these rapidly evolving NGS tests are accurate and reliable."   In what I see as a key perspective, he stressed that the FDA "is doing as much as we can...under current authorities.  But we believe that to fully unlock these innovations, we need to modernize the regulatory framework for all in vitro clinical tests."   In making these statements, Gottlieb was explicitly referencing the FDA's own proposal for legislative innovation which it recently made to Congress.   See his September 13 speech here

Further reporting at Genomeweb here.  At OncLive, here.

MolDx

MolDx released proposed coverage for ClonoSEQ in August, here.
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MolDx recently updated its Technical Assessment Checklist (web here, M00151 V4, cloud PDF here).  This September 2018 document contains reference to a September 14, 2018, Excel spreadsheet checklist specific to "Somatic Variant Detection by Comprehensive Genetic Profiling for Myeloid Tumors Checklist M00153".  See link here, my cloud copy here.   This M00153 spreadsheet has some very specific requirements, such as "copy of current CLIA certificiate" (which Medicare would already have on file for a lab),  a table to fill in that is about 250 lines long and about 10 wide, and other requirements at bottom. 

In M00153, I was surprised to see a query whether "Reports are issued by a physician, board certified by ABP or ABMGG" since molecular reports are classically signed out by either a physician or a PhD lab director.  There is also question whether the lab submits variants to ClinVar, which seems irrelevant questioning if not this is not part of the coverage decision, or very important to note if it is part of a coverage decision.

Why the October 9, 2018, PLA Code Submission Deadline is Like a Solar Eclipse

October 9, 2018 will be the closest triennial conjunction between the quarterly AMA PLA code creation cycle and the triennial CMS PAMA paid claims data cycle.

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For over a year, AMA has been issuing rapid codes for any sole source lab test or FDA approved lab test.   These are called Proprietary Laboratory Analyses, or PLA codes.  As the of quarterly September 2018 update, the AMA has issued about 80 of these - see home page here, calendar here, and PDF of codes here.

This coding system is based on the Congress's instruction to CMS in 2014, in PAMA section 216, to create new codes rapidly for Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory Tests (ADLTs) and/or FDA cleared or approved tests.   The AMA's code production system is broader, as it will create a code for any sole source lab test whether it will or won't be an ADLT (something AMA wouldn't know at the time of code creation).

The Solar Eclipse Angle

PLA codes are initially priced by local MACs, and they reach official CMS national price-setting in the first possible June after the code's creation.   For example, a new PLA code in May hits CMS quickly, but a September PLA code won't hit CMS until the next summer.   CMS treats the new codes like any other new lab code- CMS decides with public meetings and a summer of careful thinking, whether to crosswalk the code to an existing code, or whether to gapfill it officially in the next calendar year.   (For discussion of June-September CMS policymaking this year in 2018, see here.)

Meanwhile, the new PLA code is also on another calendar: to enter the triennial PAMA pricing cycle, through which CMS sets a price data claims period, a price reporting submission period, and a final price posting schedule.   While the future can't be perfectly predicted, most of us think the next PAMA price/payment period will be 1H2019, with data reported in 1Q2020, and prices set in 4Q2020 for CY2021,CY2022, CY2023.  (See a July 2018 OIG report, OEI-09-17-00050, stating that "In 2020, labs will report data collected from January-June 2019.")

The upshot.  A PLA code submitted to AMA on October 9, 2018, will reach the AMA's pathology panel vote on November 6, 2018, and by published November 30, 2018, effective January 1, 2019.   This mean this code set will be the last code set to meet the expected January-June 2019 collection period for the 2021-22-23 pricing period.

Whatever CMS does to your PLA code's price in Summer 2019, for better or worse, in will only last during CY2020.   The CMS price for 2021, 2022, and 2023 will be based by PAMA on completed private payer payments to the lab solely in 1H2019.   This might be much than the price CMS assigns by crosswalk.

I've noted earlier that labs have a lot of opportunity to make decisions during this payment collection period.  For example, if the lab submits claims for $1000, $1000, and $1000, and the first is paid at $1000, the next $300, the next $200, the lab would probably appeal the low pricing of the $300 and $200 claims.  This private payer appeal (or sequential higher appeals) process could easily extend final adjucation of the $200 and $300 claims beyond the PAMA six month claims finalization window.  The "last man standing" would be the $1000 claim, for reporting. 

The Tuesday, October 9, 2018 AMA PLA submission deadline results in the closest temporal connection between code creation, price setting, and a new PAMA cycle. 

click to enlarge


(Legal eagles might note that a January 2019 code submission could result in an April 1 effective date, falling within 1H2019.   But whether any claims would be logged and paid by June 30 for the 1H2019 paid claims interval becomes dicey.  For example, you might have 50 claims submitted and 50 denials, 0 reaching the goal line of being appealed and paid by June 30).  







Monday, October 1, 2018

Two Day Conference on Pharmacogenetics: San Diego, October 15-16, 2018

This  year, the annual meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics will be in San Diego, October 16-20, 2018.  ASHG conference website here.

In parallel, the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PRGN) will hold a two-day preconference on pharmacogenetics on October 15-16, 2018.   See the meeting website here.  The conference runs 1:00-7:30 on Monday and 8:00-4:00 on Tuesday.

I've clipped the conference summary below.  See the PRGN conference website for full agenda.


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The Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) is bringing together scientists who study the interactions between genomes and drug response.  This symposium, organized by the PGRN and open to all ASHG attendees and others, explores current topics in pharmacogenomics with sessions on the role of genetics in drug development, pharmacogenetic implementation, multiple genome considerations and precision drug therapy.  In addition, a joint session with ASHG on Day 2 will focus on drug development for rare genetic diseases and immunopharmacogenomics.

We hope this symposium will help bridge the pharmacogenomics and genetics communities and enable scientists to identify new opportunities for advancing research in basic and translational pharmacogenomics.

The agenda includes the following sessions (scroll down to view full agenda):

  • Session 1: The Role of Human Genetics in Drug Development from Target Identification to Clinical Trials
  • Session 2: Challenges and Opportunities in Pharmacogenetic Implementation
  • Session 3: Dual Genomes in Pharmacogenomics
  • Session 4: Panel Discussion on Genomics and Precision Drug Therapy
  • Session 5: Pharmacogenomics: Rare Diseases and Rare Adverse Drug Reactions
  •     Part 1: Drug Development for Rare Genetic Diseases
  •     Part 2: Immunopharmacogenomics

Disruptive Headline: iPhone-based Ultrasound Raises $250M

We hear about the physiological capabilities of each new iPhone and AppleWatch, but here is a headline not to miss.   Butterly Network is a next-generation medtech company that has just raised $250M for a smartphone-based ultrasound device.  According to news reports, the company is valued at over $1B  Company website here.

See an open access article at Hartford Courant here.   Bloomberg here, Forbes here.  See an October 1 article in MedCityNews that digital health investments are running at record rates in 2018, here.


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Butterfly Effect - in a nonlinear system, a butterfly's fluttering wing could lead to a tornado - was coined by Konrad Lorenz; here.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Very Brief Blog: Recent Headlines in Digital Pathology

A CEO in the field explained to me, a few years ago, one of the differences between Digital Pathology and Digital Radiology:  Radiology information (in MRI, CT, PET) starts as digital information.  If we printed out "films" from these modalities, in the 1980s or 1990s, it was a second-hand workaround for an era when fast high resolution workstations were not common.  On the other hand, tissue histology starts with glass slides, not digits.

In late September, digital pathology made the front page of the New York Times, but not necessarily good news.  This was in stories about the $25M raised by Paige.AI as part of an exclusive-access deal to case files at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the back stories about how the deal was made, who got stock shares, etc.  Entry point here.

Some other late September news in Digital Pathology with a few links.

  • Startup Proscia pulls in an $8M new funding round for digital pathology software and AI-assisted innovations.  Here.
  • Publication that neural network software can correctly diagnose a high proportion of common dermatology diagnoses.  
    • Trade journal here, research article Olsen et al. here.
  • HealthCare Dive article on barriers versus momentum in digital pathology, here.
    • Note that this is a cover article for a forthcoming market sizing report by Signify Research, essay here and report access via here.  
    • The summary insights may still be of interest, though.
    • Radiant also offers a market sizing report here.
For a 2018 trade journal article and additional linked entry points on artificial intelligence in radiology, here and here.

Very Brief Blog: AdvaMed Calendars West Coast Dx Summit (San Diego, November 7)

AdvaMed-DX has calendared its newest biannual West Coast Summit for diagnostics innovation and policy.  It will be held in San Diego on November 7, 2018.

See the website here.   Registration is $1095 for non-AdvaMed members and $795 for AdvaMed members (see also extra categories like "government employee.")   

I don't see a posted full agenda yet but the summary is:  "This one-day summit will feature leaders from the diagnostic industry, the investor community, Congress, government and commercial payers, and others."


Very Brief Blog: Ernst & Young Issues 60-page 2018 Medical Device Industry Report

In conjunction with this year's fall AdvaMed meeting, Ernst and Young has issued its annual medical device state of the industry report.  This year it clocks in at 62 pages.

See a trade press article on the report at MedCityNews here.

See the actual PDF report via a link at MedCity just cited, or here.

MedCity portrays the report as an emerging turf war or competition between digital companies (think Google & Verily) and traditional medtech companies, as well as a battle for consumer engagement to facilitate an edge over competitors.   "The battle goes to the swift..."




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Very Brief Blog: HHS Issues Report on Data Sharing

Today I had the chance to speak on CMS & Big Data at a conference in Washington sponsored by Academy Health.  Mona Siddiqi of HHS talked about a newly published, 2017-2018 survey of the HHS agencies (FDA, NIH, CMS, etc) and how well they were facing the challenges and the upside potential of data sharing. 

The 34-page report is online here.

Key points, as summarized by Healthcare Dive here, include: 

  • Efforts to increase data sharing among HHS agencies are hampered by the lack of a transparent and standardized protocols; 
  • While isolated successes in interagency data sharing have occurred, an enterprise-wide data-sharing framework is needed to efficiently scale; 
  • The report identifies an array of legal, technical and cultural challenges to enterprise-wide data sharing, along with next steps to advance HHS goals.
Additional trade press here and here.  HHS press release here.