The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week announced its decision not to cover screening computed tomography colonography (CTC), also known as virtual colonoscopy, of Medicare patients.

In its May 12 memo, CMS contended that the promising technique “is not yet ready for widespread screening use.”

Professional societies quickly issued statements responding to CMS’ conclusion, which follows its proposed February decision to deny reimbursement for screening CTC.

The American College of Radiology stated that the ultimate decision “is not supported by the latest clinical evidence and may result in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths each year from colorectal cancer, particularly among minority and underserved populations. CMS should reverse this determination and provide full coverage of CT colonography or Congress should pass legislation in this session to require Medicare coverage of the exam.”
The ACR pointed to recent literature demonstrating CTC’s effectiveness. For example, the American College of Radiology Imaging Network Trial, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute with results published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated that CTC is comparable to standard colonoscopy as a screening tool for the detection of cancer and precancerous polyps.

The American College of Gastroenterology stated that the decision “underscores the lack of sufficient evidence on the test’s potential as an appropriate option for the screening and prevention of colorectal cancer.”
The CTC Working Group, a coalition of physician providers, colon cancer patient advocates and imaging equipment manufacturers, also expressed disappointment over the decision through a statement.

“We were hopeful CMS would allow seniors access to virtual colonoscopies, which can aid in the early detection and prevention of colon cancer and save lives,” said Andrew Spiegel, CEO of the Colon Cancer Alliance, a member of the CTC Working Group.  “While we believe ample data currently exists to support a positive decision today for Medicare reimbursement of virtual colonoscopy, CMS should immediately re-open the review process to account for any new data and evidence that emerges showing efficacy of CTC in the Medicare population.”