Washington Editor

Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) intend to join forces to implement a plan to improve the process used to bring cancer drugs to market.

Out of the collaboration, doctors and patients can expect an increase in information to help make decisions about how new technologies can be used more effectively to improve the lives of cancer patients, a joint statement from the agencies said.

In the first step, CMS and NCI will craft a memorandum of understanding to define how they will work together. Among the issues, the agencies will develop a process for identifying high-priority clinical questions about the best use of new cancer technologies and the creation of a process for conducting post-approval studies to address priority questions, a statement said.

Furthermore, the effort aims to:

Define a process for consultations between CMS and NCI experts in the evaluation of new diagnostic and therapeutic cancer technologies for payment and coverage decisions.

Develop more efficient methods of collecting clinical evidence on new cancer technologies and strategies for making the information more widely available to patients, clinicians and researchers. To achieve that, the agencies also will explore the inclusion of CMS claims data on the NCI bioinformatics grid, CA-BIG, to make the information more available for research on outcomes, on comparative utilization of existing treatments and other similar evaluations.

Develop a joint process for the prospective identification and evaluation of emerging technologies, such as molecular imaging, so that reimbursement policies will fully anticipate promising new cancer technologies and help expedite their adoption in the marketplace.

The agencies will identify opportunities for sharing data and resources aimed at improving the quality of care for cancer patients and addressing additional concerns such as cancer health disparity issues, reducing unwarranted variation in treatment patterns, and improving palliative and end-of-life care.

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