Allocating healthcare resources to genomic testing in Canada: latest evidence and current challenges


Precision medicine (PM) informed by next-generation sequencing (NGS) poses challenges for health technology assessment (HTA). To date, there has been limited reimbursement of genomic testing with NGS in Canada, particularly for whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing (WGS/WES). Through a structured literature review, we examine Canadian economic evidence and evidentiary challenges for the adoption of genomic testing. We searched Medline (PubMed) for published Canadian studies generating economic evidence for PM informed by NGS. Our search focused on studies examining the costs and/or value of NGS. We reviewed included studies and summarized results according to evaluation type, clinical context, NGS technology, and test strategy. We then grouped HTA challenges encountered by authors when evaluating NGS. Our review included twenty-five studies. To determine the economic impacts of NGS-informed PM in Canada, studies applied cost-effectiveness analysis (52%, n = 13), stated preference analysis (20%, n = 5), cost-consequence analysis (16%, n = 4), and healthcare resource utilization or costing analysis (12%, n = 3). NGS panels were the most common technology evaluated (n = 13), followed by WGS and/or WES (n = 8). The included studies highlighted multiple challenges when generating economic evidence, many of which remain unaddressed. Challenges were broadly related to (1) accounting for all NGS outcomes; (2) addressing uncertainty; and (3) improving consistency of economic approaches. Canadian studies are beginning to produce estimates of the economic impacts of NGS-informed PM, yet challenges for HTA remain. While solutions and real-world evidence are generated, lifecycle health technology management methods can be designed to better support resource allocation decisions for genomic testing in Canada.

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This work was supported by BC Cancer Foundation’s Strategic Priority Fund Awards. The Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society Grant No. 2015-703549.

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Correspondence to Dean A. Regier.

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Deirdre Weymann, Nick Dragojlovic, and Samantha Pollard report no conflicts of interest. Dean A. Regier has received travel support from Illumina to attend conferences in Boston, USA, and Barcelona, Spain.

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Weymann, D., Dragojlovic, N., Pollard, S. et al. Allocating healthcare resources to genomic testing in Canada: latest evidence and current challenges. J Community Genet (2019).

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  • Precision medicine
  • Health technology assessment
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Genomic testing
  • Canada