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August 31, 2023
Peter J. Neumann
James D. Chambers
Sean R. Tunis
Feb 26, 2024
Jan 31, 2024
Jan 29, 2024
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Context: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s accelerated-approval pathway expedites patient access to promising treatments. However, increasing use of this pathway has challenged the Medicare program, which often pays for expensive therapies despite substantial uncertainty about benefits and risks to Medicare beneficiaries. We examined approaches to improve coordination between the FDA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for drugs granted accelerated approval.
Methods: We argue that policymakers have focused on expedited pathways at the FDA without sufficient attention to complementary policies at the CMS. Although differences between the FDA and CMS decisions are to be expected given the agencies’ different missions and statutory obligations, procedural improvements can ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have timely access to novel therapies that are likely to improve health outcomes. To inform policy options and recommendations, we conducted semistructured interviews with stakeholders to capture diverse perspectives on the topic.
Findings: We recommend ten areas for consideration: clarifying the FDA’s evidentiary standards; strengthening FDA authorities; promoting earlier discussions among the FDA, the CMS, and drug companies; improving Medicare’s coverage with evidence development program; tying Medicare payment for accelerated-approval drugs to evidence generation milestones; issuing CMS guidance on real-world evidence; clarifying Medicare’s “reasonable and necessary” criteria; adopting lessons from international regulatory-reimbursement harmonization efforts; ensuring that the CMS has adequate staffing and expertise; and emphasizing equity.
Conclusions: Better coordination between the FDA and CMS could improve the transparency and predictability of drug approval and coverage around accelerated-approval drugs, with important implications for patient outcomes, health spending, and evidence generation processes. Improved coordination will require reforms at both the FDA and CMS, with special attention to honoring the agencies’ distinct authorities. It will require administrative and legislative actions, new resources, and strong leadership at both agencies.
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The Milbank Quarterly is an editorially independent multidisciplinary journal that offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, political, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.