Aetna, one of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, has updated its Exhaled Breath Tests Clinical Policy to include the measurement of exhaled nitric oxide as “medically necessary” for the evaluation of asthma and for monitoring the response to long-term control therapy, according to an announcement from Circassia Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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The move means that Aetna’s 22 million medical members will have access to FeNO testing for asthma. Patients with allergic/eosinophilic airway inflammation generally have higher than normal levels of nitric oxide in their exhaled breath, according to Circassia. By measuring the concentration of FeNO, clinicians can evaluate airway inflammation in patients with underlying asthma, aiding diagnosis and helping guide treatment and reduce exacerbations.

Aetna’s decision was based on a review of currently available clinical information, including clinical outcome studies in the peer-reviewed published medical literature, regulatory status of the technology, evidence-based guidelines of public health and health research agencies, and more, Circassia reported.

Circassia, which manufactures the NIOX FeNO point of care device, supported Aetna’s policy decision.

“Aetna’s updated policy is excellent news for people with asthma and parents of children who live with asthma,” said David Acheson, senior vice president, US Commercial, Circassia. “The update includes data from a recent US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report that highlights the use of FeNO testing as a valuable part of comprehensive asthma diagnosis and management. We are pleased to see Aetna update its Clinical Policy Bulletin to include FeNO and provide expanded coverage to its members who have this serious condition.”