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Registry launches to expand coverage of PET bone scans

by Brendon Nafziger , DOTmed News Associate Editor
Starting next week, facilities can receive Medicare reimbursements for certain F-18 sodium fluoride PET scans to identify bone metastases if they belong to a clinical data-gathering registry, the National Oncologic Postiron Emission Tomography Registry.

Beginning 9 o'clock in the morning Eastern Time on Feb. 7, the NOPR will accept patient registration from participating sites.

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The American College of Radiology said the expanded coverage would help doctors use the PET radiotracer to work up treatment plans when caring for Medicare patients with cancer that had metastasized and traveled to the bone.

"The NOPR investigators are pleased to once again be working with [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] to collect data that will help us better understand the extent to which NaF-PET affects the management of care for patients with cancer metastatic to the bone," said Dr. Barry Siegel, co-chair of the NOPR Working Group and chair of the PET core laboratory at the ACR Imaging Network, in prepared remarks.

In April 2009, CMS announced it would expand coverage of NaF-PET scans for initial evaluation of most cancers, according to a statement on the NOPR website.

However, the CMS said that for many cancers it would only pay for PET scans for treatment planning as part of a clinical trial or study registry.

And using NaF-PET for bone metastases has been debated by CMS for the past few years. In June 2009, CMS ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to determine if NaF-PET scans for bone metastases actually benefit patients. But in February last year, the CMS said there was enough evidence to warrant covering the cost of the scan if doctors also gathered data to assess its usefulness.

The NOPR first began registering patients almost five years ago in response to CMS' aim to expand coverage for PET procedures. Since it began, nearly 1,900 PET facilities have joined, and data have been collected on nearly 200,000 scans, the group said.

To learn more about becoming a participating site, visit: http://www.cancerpetregistry.org/news.htm#JAN172011

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