Availability and funding of clinical genomic sequencing globally

Just a quick post to share details of a new paper that was published yesterday in BMJ Global Health.

Phillips KA, Douglas MP, Wordsworth S, et al Availability and funding of clinical genomic sequencing globally BMJ Global Health 2021;6:e004415. Link

This is the latest ouput from the Global Economics and Evaluation of Clinical Genomics Sequencing (GEECS) Working Group, of which I am a founding member.

Our aim in this paper was to examine genome sequencing availability across world regions and countries, using three exemplar countries (UK, Canada, USA) to identify data gaps & funding challenges for implementation. We found that these tests are available or becoming available in every major region of the world, with growing availability in countries with upper-middle-income economies. We conclude by assessing what type of data and initiatives will be needed to better track and understand the use of NGS around the world as such testing continues to expand.

New special theme section in Value in Health on Precision Medicine

In 2018, I contributed to the publication of a special theme section in Value in Health on assessing the value of clinical genomic testing. You can read a blog post about this publication here, and access the special issue here. My contribution to this was as a member of the Global Economics and Evaluation of Clinical Genomics Sequencing Working Group (GEECS), formerly known as the Population Genomics Health Economists Working Group.

I’m pleased to say that we have just published a second theme section in the same journal, this time focused on evaluation methods for moving precision medicine into practice and policy. This theme section features five papers from the GEECS team and one paper by the ISPOR Special Interest Group on Precision Medicine and Advanced Therapies. As before, the work was chaired by Kathryn A. Phillips, PhD.

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Are the costs of genome sequencing underestimated?

Four years ago I blogged on how “The $1000 genome is a myth”. I think the first paragraph from that blog post is as relevant today as it was in 2015:

Barely a day goes by without a news story or social media post proclaiming that the $1000 genome now exists, and is ushering in a healthcare revolution. Every day, somebody, somewhere in the world, posts these graphs on Twitter. There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to this topic. It’s a persistent news headline and, frustratingly, it’s currently wrong.

Since 2015, the health economic evidence base for genome sequencing has gradually expanded, and several cost estimates are now available, but overall I think we still lack the sort of rigorously conducted microcosting studies that can usefully inform resource allocation decisions regarding genomic testing.

Hopefully this paper that we published in Genetics in Medicine a couple of weeks’ ago can make such a contribution.

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Do health professionals value genomic testing?

Apologies for the lack of activity on this blog. The amount of time I have for writing blog posts has reduced considerably over the past few months! I do hope to begin writing more general blog posts again soon, but I’m checking in today to highlight a paper that we published this week in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

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Evaluating the Outcomes Associated with Genomic Sequencing

I’ve written about evaluating the outcomes of genomic sequencing a few times in this blog, in the context of several different publications. A key issue here is that we still lack evidence on the health outcomes associated with sequencing, and a commonly cited reason for this is that health economists are unsure as to whether the QALY can fully quantify the outcomes that are important to patients when they undergo genomic testing. There isn’t a great deal of consensus on this matter, or on the issue of whether information on personal utility should feed into resource allocation decisions in this context. This methodological uncertainty may partially explain why existing economic evaluations of genomic sequencing have not gone beyond ‘narrow’ outcome measures such as diagnostic yield.

However, before abandoning QALYs in this clinical context (if this is even possible), I think there are several steps that can and should be taken to improve the evidence base on the clinical and non-clinical utility of genomic sequencing. With this in mind, I recently published an editorial in PharmacoEconomics – Open with Sarah Wordsworth titled “Evaluating the Outcomes Associated with Genomic Sequencing: A Roadmap for Future Research”, in which we expand on what these steps might be. I think this topic should be debated more widely, so if anybody has alternative views on this I’d be happy to hear them!

Just published: Value In Health theme section on assessing the value of clinical genomic testing

Around 12 months ago I joined an exciting new venture: the Population Genomics Health Economists Working Group. This group is made up of health economists and policy researchers from major institutions across the globe who have been at the forefront of the incorporation of genomics into clinical care. The group is chaired by Kathryn A. Phillips, PhD, Director of the Center for Translational and Policy Research on Personalized Medicine (TRANSPERS) at the University of California. You can find out more about the group members here.

The first key output from this working group has been published today: a themed section in the September issue of Value in Health which addresses the challenges and solutions for assessment of the value of clinical genomic testing.

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Are whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing approaches cost-effective?

Yesterday, we published an article in Genomics in Medicine titled: “Are whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing approaches cost-effective? A systematic review of the literature”. The lead author for this work was Katharina Schwarze, who spent several months at HERC working on a project related to the costs of whole genome sequencing.

The aim of this particular piece of work was to summarise the current health economic evidence for whole-exome sequencing (WES) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS). The key finding was that the current health economic evidence base to support the more widespread use of WES and WGS in clinical practice is very limited. Other important findings include the following:

  • Cost estimates for a single test ranged from $555 to $5,169 for WES and from $1,906 to $24,810 for WGS.
  • There was no evidence that the cost of WES was falling over time, and only limited evidence that the cost of WGS was decreasing.
  • Few studies used outcome measures recommended for use in economic evaluations, such as survival or quality of life.
  • Only eight publications were full economic evaluations, of which only five produced evidence that WES or WGS may represent a cost-effective use of limited health-care resources.

We conclude by making four practical recommendations:

  1. Future studies should report costs by stage of testing for WES and WGS and highlight particularly notable costs, as it is currently difficult to identify key cost drivers.
  2. Future studies should report resource use and unit costs in a disaggregated manner to aid interpretation.
  3. Future studies evaluating the cost-effectiveness of WES or WGS should use calculated costs instead of prices, to better capture the economic value associated with WES and WGS, and to avoid incorrect and inefficient adoption decisions.
  4. Future studies of the cost-effectiveness of WES and WGS should include trained health economists as coinvestigators to improve study quality.

This paper challenges a number of assumptions in the literature and in the wider conversation regarding the cost and potential value of next generation sequencing technologies. I hope you’ll read, share, and debate these findings!

Using genomic information to guide ibrutinib treatment decisions in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

A quick update for you on my PhD publications. Last year, I completed my PhD which considered the issues surrounding the economic analysis of genomic diagnostic technologies in the UK NHS. So far, I have published three papers reporting the results of this work:

I am pleased to be able to report that the fourth paper arising from my PhD work was published today in PharmacoEconomics, titled: “Using genomic information to guide ibrutinib treatment decisions in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: A cost-effectiveness analysis“.


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Patient Preferences for Genomic Diagnostic Testing

I recently completed my PhD work which considered the issues surrounding the economic analysis of genomic diagnostic technologies in the UK NHS, and I hope to publish as much of this work as possible over the next year or so. The first paper reporting the results of this work was published in 2013 in Pharmacogenomics (“Issues surrounding the health economic evaluation of genomic technologies”) and the second paper was published in PharmacoEconomics in 2015 (“Welfarism versus extra-welfarism: can the choice of economic evaluation approach impact on the adoption decisions recommended by economic evaluation studies?”). I’m please to say that the third paper arising from this work was published last week in The Patient (“Patients’ Preferences for Genomic Diagnostic Testing in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia: A Discrete Choice Experiment”). Continue reading