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Prescription Access Litigation coalition member National Women’s Health Network recently sent a news item about the FDA’s September 29 letter to LabCorp, advising it that its ovarian cancer screening test is a medical device that must be pre-approved by the FDA before it can be marketed. In response to the letter, LabCorp (NYSE:LH) announced at the end of October that it is halting sales of OvaSure.

Back in August, the New York Times ran an article on the test: Cancer Test for Women Raises Hope, and Concern

As the FDA’s letter said:

Our review indicates that this product is a device under section 201(h) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA or Act), 21 U.S.C. 321(h), because it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, treatment, prevention, or mitigation of disease. The Act requires that manufacturers of devices that are not exempt obtain marketing approval or clearance for their products from the FDA before they may offer them for sale….

According to our records, no such determination has been made for OvaSure™. Because you do not have marketing clearance or approval from the FDA, marketing OvaSure™ is in violation of the law. The device is adulterated under section 501(f)(1)(B) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. 351(f)(1)(B)…. The device is also misbranded under section 502(o) the Act, 21 U.S.C. 352(o)….

Here’s what National Women’s Health Network had to say about the test:

Don’t Be Fooled by OvaSure

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned that the marketing of a new ovarian cancer test violates the laws guarding against promotion of unproven technologies, vindicating skeptics like the National Women’s Health Network, who were concerned that the test was not ready to be used for routine cancer screening. OvaSure is a test that measures six different proteins in blood samples and calculates the odds that a woman will develop ovarian cancer. The $220 test was developed by LabCorp and has been available since late June.

When ovarian cancer is detected in its earliest stages, more than 90 percent of women survive at least five years. When the cancer is discovered in its late stages, after it has spread beyond the ovaries, only about 30 percent of women survive five years. There is currently no effective screening tool for ovarian cancer, so only about 20 percent of cases are detected early. OvaSure was developed to fill this void, but the test has not yet been shown to be very effective at detecting early disease. False positives are also a serious concern. A screening test that says a woman has a cancer when she doesn’t is dangerous because it subjects women to unnecessary worry and sometimes even surgery, including the possibility of unnecessary removal of a healthy ovary. (It shouldn’t happen, but it does.)

The NWHN worked hard with other consumer safety organizations and with our allies in Congress to enact FDA reform in 2007 sending the FDA a clear message that the agency should be tougher in enforcing its rules to protect women from ineffective drugs, devices and tests that could put their health at risk.

LabCorp has been told by the FDA that it must meet premarketing approval requirements before getting the okay to market Ovasure. Thanks to everyone who helped us send a message that women want safe and effective health products, as well as speedy approvals. We urge Labcorps, and others trying to find a good screening test for ovarian cancer, to do the research necessary to prove the tests will meet the FDA’s standards and actually improve women’s health. Women are waiting.