CMS proposes coverage of CAR T-cell therapy in trials


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed to cover chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for cancer patients participating in clinical trials that study the treatment’s effectiveness, according to a Feb. 15 announcement.

CAR T cells are ready for infusion. Penn Medicine

CAR T cells ready for infusion

The proposed national coverage determination would require CMS to cover CAR T-cell therapies nationwide when the treatment is offered in CMS-approved registries or clinical studies in which patients are monitored for 2 or more years following treatment.

Results from the studies would help CMS identify which patients benefit most from CAR T-cell therapies and inform future coverage decisions, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.

“CAR T-cell therapy was the first FDA-approved gene therapy, marking the beginning of an entirely new approach to treating serious and even life-threatening diseases,” Ms. Verma said in a statement. “Today’s proposed coverage decision would improve access to this therapy while deepening CMS’s understanding of how patients in Medicare respond to it, so the agency can ensure that it is paying for CAR T-cell therapy for cases in which the benefits outweigh the risks.”

As part of the proposal, CMS would cover autologous treatment with T cells expressing at least one chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) through coverage with evidence development when prescribed by a treating oncologist and performed in a hospital, according to a summary of the proposal.

The patient and hospital must meet specific criteria to be eligible for coverage, including that patients have relapsed or refractory cancer and do not have a comorbidity that would otherwise preclude patient benefit.

Hospitals, meanwhile, must have a cellular therapy program consisting of an integrated medical team that includes a clinical program director, a quality manager, and at least one physician experienced in cellular therapy, among other requirements.

CMS also would require that treatment is an FDA-approved biologic, providing targeted therapy for a known antigen expressed in the patient’s cancer according to an FDA indication. Repeat treatment would be covered only when a new primary cancer diagnosis is made by the treating oncologist and certain patient conditions are met.

Both inpatient and outpatient settings for the CAR T-cell therapy treatment are acceptable under the proposal. In either case, the patient and the hospital must be participating in a prospective, national, audited registry that consecutively enrolls patients, accepts all manufactured products, follows the patient for at least 2 years, and addresses a set of approved evidence-development questions. Additionally, all registries must be reviewed and approved by CMS.

The proposed national coverage determination was the result of an Aug. 22, 2018 meeting of the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee. The committee provides CMS with an external assessment of the appropriateness of therapies under review.

Public comments about the CAR T-cell therapy proposal will be accepted online here until March 15. A final decision on the proposal is expected by May 2019.

The agency’s proposal follows an Aug. 17 final rule by CMS that sets a new payment scheme for inpatient administration of two CAR T-cell therapies. The rule categorizes CAR T-cell therapies under the umbrella of the renamed Medicare Severity–Diagnosis Related Groups 016 – Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant with CC/MCC or T-cell Immunotherapy – and assigns ICD-10 PCS procedure codes XW033C3 and XW043C3 to the use of axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) and tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) in the inpatient setting for fiscal year 2019, which began in October 2018. CMS also approved a temporary New Technology Add-On Payment for use of the therapies with a maximum threshold of $186,500.

In April 2018, CMS announced payment rates for outpatient administration of the two drugs, settling on $395,380 for axicabtagene ciloleucel and $500,839 for tisagenlecleucel. The two medications have list prices of $373,000 and $475,000, respectively.

Next Article: