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Coventry Terminates Deal with Sequenom; Further Data Published on MaterniT21 Plus Test

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Coventry Health Care National Network has terminated its coverage agreement with Sequenom covering the MaterniT21 Plus test, just one week after the agreement was announced, the San Diego-based molecular diagnostics firm said after the close of the market on Thursday.

Coventry told Sequenom that the termination was without cause and was not a judgment on Sequenom, its Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine subsidiary — which administers the non-invasive test for fetal aneuploidies — or its products, Sequenom said.

Bethesda, Md.-based Coventry informed Sequenom of its decision on May 14.

Sequenom announced its deal with Coventry a week ago, saying it would provide the 2.2 million members of Coventry's First Health PPO network access to MaterniT21 Plus, which detects for the presence of trisomy 21, 18, and 13.

Sequenom also had announced an agreement in April with healthcare cost management firm MultiPlan to include the test in its coverage.

In a note published Friday morning, William Blair analyst Brian Weinstein said that Coventry told him that Sequenom had obtained coverage initially through a self-nomination process through one of Coventry's California offices. However, the national organization determined that Coventry didn't want to cover the test at this time.

"Immediately upon hearing the news, we were concerned that the reason for the cancellation had something to do with a disagreement over the reimbursement rate or that the company had canceled its agreement with Sequenom in favor of another provider," Weinstein wrote. "At this point we do not believe this to be the case, as it sounds to us like it was more of an internal Coventry matter, though we cannot say with certainty the actual reason for what happened."

In a separate announcement on Friday, Sequenom said that data on a study of the MaterniT21 Plus test has been published in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis. According to the firm, the study looked at the performance of the test in identifying trisomies 21, 18, and 13 in pregnant women carrying twins or triplets.

The study, conducted by researchers at Women & Infants Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University as well researchers at the Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine, found that the MaterniT21 test correctly classified the cases of trisomy 21 in seven twins and trisomy 13 in one twin, and the 17 twin euploid pregnancies and two triplet euploid pregnancies.

"This published data provides valuable evidence to specialists that Sequenom CMM's MaterniT21 PLUS LDT can provide reliable detection of certain fetal trisomies in twins, just as in single pregnancies," Sequenom Chairman and CEO Harry Hixson said in a statement.

Sequenom also noted that as of the week ended May 12, the Sequenom CMM had processed more than 10,000 MaterniT21 Plus tests since the beginning of the year. It said that as of the last week in April, the 52-week run rate on the test was more than 45,000.

The study results and updated test numbers, however, did not sway investors as Sequenom's shares dropped 9 percent to $4.36 in Friday morning trade on the Nasdaq.