FDA, CMS facilitate continuity between approval of, payment for medical products

Fragmentation in the process of approving and clearing drugs for marketing by the FDA and then clearing drugs for coverage by CMS has led to questions regarding whether FDA approval necessarily results in approval for coverage and payment under Medicare and Medicaid. In a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) perspective written by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco Rachel Sherman, the authors posit that, despite such challenges, changes in the organization of health care and the larger technology landscape should allow the FDA and CMS to move toward the use of shared sources of evidence while still applying the most appropriate criteria to decision making.

In product approval and clearance for marketing by the FDA and in coverage and payment determinations by CMS, the agencies use scientific evidence to make determinations. The use of shared sources of evidence would help to reduce gaps in information that could lead to uncertainty in the approval or clearance of new therapies, as well as their subsequent use in medical treatment. Shared information would also increase efficiency in medical product development and ensure the use of high-quality evidence.

It is standard practice to use in the approval and clearance for marketing process research examining the effects of therapeutics in narrow, strictly delineated populations that may not reflect the clinical practice settings in which the products will be used. The authors stressed that when a product demonstrates promise in this narrow setting, developers should pivot quickly toward evaluating the product, using “evidence about the risks and benefits of tangible health outcomes in clinical settings and among patients representative of those who will actually use these products.” The expansion of the scope of research used in the approval and clearance process will help show how a product is likely to perform and how to utilize the product in treatment.  Garnering early involvement of health systems and payers will help the agencies to determine what kinds of evidence are needed to incorporate the product in practice, where the product fits in formularies and device inventories, and whether or how much to pay for its use.

The FDA and CMS are focusing on the following to ensure that adequate evidence is available to guide patients, clinicians, and payers in their choices:

  • clarifying the need for including diverse populations and measuring relevant clinical outcomes within the trials conducted for regulatory approval and to inform labeling;
  • collaborating with other federal agencies to build functional links across a range of systems to make the best use of existing digital information captured in the course of health care delivery, such as electronic health records, insurance claims, and data within clinical registries; and
  • ensuring broad collaboration across public and private sectors.

It’s time to turn the tables on technology, end meaningful use

Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt pointed to the end of meaningful use as we know it, laying out an aggressive timeline to replace the program at a J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Acknowledging the physician burden, Slavitt said, “It’s time to make health care technology serve beneficiaries and the physicians who serve them.” Instead of pushing for technology, “We have to get the hearts and minds of physicians back.”

Implementing the meaningful use program, an electronic health records (EHR) mandate and incentive program, cost a significant amount for many health care providers. It was meant to use certified EHR technology to improve the quality of care, engage patients and family, and improve care coordination, while maintaining privacy and the security of patient health information. After taking the physician burden and frustration levels into account, Slavitt decided now is the time to change focus.

Slavitt stated, “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better . . . we have listened to the needs and concerns of many.”

In a series of tweets the same day, Slavitt (@aslavitt) listed his four themes guiding implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) (P.L. 114-10) on technology in a post-meaningful use world. They are:

  • move away from rewarding use of technology towards outcomes;
  • allow doctors to customize goals around their practices so use-centered technology can be developed;
  • level the playing field with open application programming interfaces to allow apps, analytic tools, plug-ins, and to reduce EHR lock; and
  • harness interoperability that builds on use cases from physicians and patients and fights data blocking.

Slavitt intends to reveal more of his plans on March 25, 2016. He noted that future plans and details will focus on patient outcomes instead of technology use.