What do you need to know about BC MSP & telomere testing?

Telomere length testing can provide vital information for the diagnosis and management of Telomere Biology Disorders, as well as other conditions. What should doctors in British Columbia be aware of when it comes to the Medical Services Plan coverage of telomere testing?

Why order a telomere test?

A telomere length test is a blood test that measures the length of an individual’s telomeres, and the information collected can be used to confirm a diagnosis when a person has signs or symptoms that may be due to a telomere deficiency. You can find out more by watching this informational video, produced by Team Telomere.

Telomere length analysis is a well-established and reliable clinical test used in the diagnosis of bone marrow failure, dyskeratosis congenita (DC) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

In 2015 the ‘Dyskeratosis Congenita and Telomere Biology Disorders: Diagnosis and Management Guidelines’ were published. These guidelines outline that the clinical sensitivity and specificity for Flow FISH telomere length analysis have been defined for the diagnosis of DC. The guidelines also highly recommend telomere length testing by multicolor Flow FISH for all patients with aplastic anemia.

Is telomere testing covered by MSP?

As of November 1, 2018 the Medical Services Plan (MSP) of British Columbia (BC) has covered the cost of telomere length testing under set requirements.

The decision for telomere testing to be covered by MSP is considered a huge success. This allows doctors to order this specialist test, that provides vital information to support the diagnosis and treatment of complex conditions, without concerns around individual cost or coverage.

This decision means that within BC this test is now available as part of the quality public health care service that the government is committed to providing; based on individual need, not ability to pay.

What requirements are in place for telomere length testing to be funded?

In order for MSP to cover the cost of telomere length testing, the test must be approved by a BC Hematopathologist.

At present, MSP covers telomere testing in the following cases:

  • Patients with clinical and / or laboratory evidence of a Telomere Biology Disorder (TBD)
  • Genetically-related candidate stem cell donors for patients with identified TBDs

To note, currently telomere testing is only covered by MSP in the context of IPF for individuals with DC-like features or hematological involvement. You can read more about the potential applications of telomere testing for IPF here.

Under MSP coverage, the 2-panel telomere length test should be performed first, with a follow-up 6-panel assay limited to cases with inconclusive 2-panel results. To note, further approval by a Hematopathologist is required prior to requesting the 6-panel test.

RepeatDx is a leading laboratory offering comprehensive telomere length testing, providing accurate results in an efficient turn around time. Based in North Vancouver, RepeatDx offers a local and reliable service, providing telomere length results that can help support diagnosis and treatment decisions.

The RepeatDx laboratory is DAP accredited (Diagnostic Accreditation Program of BC). You can find out more information, and order a telomere length analysis here.

You can find out more about the BC MSP coverage here.