Medical Devices Approved Using Low-Quality Data Affect Medicare Costs

Michael D. Williamson, Bloomberg BNA: September 8, 2016

High-risk medical devices are sometimes approved using low-quality clinical data and this increases Medicare costs, a member of a Medicare congressional advisory panel said Sept. 8.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s meeting session reflected its first major examination of the medical device industry. The session may portend a deeper examination of the device industry’s practices, which could cause Congress and/or the Department of Health and Human Services to change payment rates for devices and related services, as the commission’s recommendations are fairly influential among policy makers.

Commissioner Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, called for further MedPAC examination of how to push the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to more broadly consider quality over an entire episode of care when deciding whether to cover a device.

Commissioners didn’t vote on recommendations. However, they debated how MedPAC staff should further research device company practices and their role in driving Medicare costs. Results of that research could prompt the commission to draft recommendations in the future.

In a separate session, commissioners discussed MedPAC staff progress on developing a uniform set of quality measures that could be used under a unified Medicare payment system for all post-acute care providers.

Tie to Rising Medicare Costs

Devices with a high risk to patients are sometimes approved by the Food and Drug Administration using poor quality data, Redberg said. This can result in low-quality devices being implanted into patients. These low-quality devices then need to be deactivated or removed, which drives up Medicare costs. […]

Redberg’s stance received praise from the leader of a patient safety group. “I completely agree with Dr. Redberg,” Diana Zuckerman, president of National Center for Health Research, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 8. The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit that encourages new and more effective programs and medical treatments.

In addition, the CMS should advise the FDA about the lack of data and safety and efficacy analysis specifically on patients over age 65, Zuckerman said. The lack of data “is a major problem for drugs and devices,” she told Bloomberg BNA. […]

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