Despite significant investment from the private and public sectors in development of Point-of-Care Testing (POCT), Congress is concerned about the future viability of these diagnostic technologies designed to expedite patient diagnoses and reduce healthcare costs.

Empowering clinicians to make decisions at the “point-of-care” has the potential to significantly impact healthcare delivery with POCT allowing rapid patient diagnoses in the physician’s office or clinic, rather than waiting hours or even days for outside laboratory results. And, “multiplexing” of the technology enables many tests to be run simultaneously.

But, in a June 9 letter to the Government Accountability Office, lawmakers have raised a red flag about the November 2013 cancellation of a government contract with NVS Technologies—a molecular diagnostics solutions vendor for the point-of-care market—that may impede the progress achieved to date.   

“Multiplex POCT systems are of interest to several federal government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense, with some agencies providing investment funding to develop or acquire these capabilities,” according to the letter from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), which references potential benefits to public health systems and countering biothreats used by terrorists. However, they argue that Congress “must understand the status of these technologies” in light of the cancellation of the NVS Technologies contract by the Department of Homeland Security.

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The lawmakers have asked the GAO to conduct an assessment of multiplex POCT, including the performance characteristics of commercially available technology (such as NVS), the technical issues associated with multiplexing assays (i.e., PCR assays for nucleic acids and immunoassays for protein targets), as well as the benefits, costs and implementation challenges.

Johnson is chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.      

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