The OBR Blog

June 09, 2008 - 06:06 pm Posted in Featured comments0 Comments

Before his time leading the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Bill McGivney spent six years with Aetna as head of national coverage policy and its national P&T committee. “I understood the payer perspective,” McGivney said, reflecting today on one of the intangibles that helped NCCN earn a major policy and organizational success last week.

On June 5, CMS recognized the NCCN Drugs & Biologics Compendium™ as a mandated reference for the establishment of coverage policy and coverage decisions regarding the use of drugs and biologics in cancer care.

CMS decisions are expected shortly on whether the agency will also add three other compendia: Thomson’s DrugDex and DrugPoints, and Clinical Pharmacology’s Gold Standard.

For oncologists, the decision potentially means an ease on practice administrative demands and a boost to clinical decision making at the point of care. As of June 5, physicians can begin to reference the NCCN approved compendium for Medicare Part B reimbursement.

Medicare local contractors, who process and pay Medicare claims and approve coverage for drugs under Part B, use compendia as one of several tools to determine whether an anti-cancer drug should be covered under Medicare Part B.

Until this decision, oncology and hematology practices complained that NCCN was not among the approved compendia, and yet for many it was the most current. In research published in OBR earlier this year (, 81% of oncology practices surveyed said that CMS and commercial payers ought to adopt NCCN as a gold standard.

“This has been a long road when we started four years ago thinking about compendia. We had a good collaboration with CMS all along,” said McGivney, PhD, NCCN’s chief executive officer. “We listened to them and knew there would be twists and turns, but we focused on the goal and established improvements to our electronic system so anyone could utilize it.”

For McGivney, you can tell the announcement serves as a personal victory but one that means more for the cancer care system. “This greatly benefits patients … our guidelines are the standards for clinical oncology and integrated with expert medical judgment.”

If you’re in industry or a provider or at some other corner of the cancer continuum, one policy lesson clearly emerged from this process: transparency wins. Says McGivney: “CMS was very interested in the openness of our process and that we made [our compendia] free, that our doctors do this free of charge, most for about 10,000 hours a year.”

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