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Aetna Aetna
Clinical Policy Bulletin:
Plasmapheresis/Plasma Exchange/Therapeutic Apheresis
Number: 0285


Policy

  1. Aetna considers plasmapheresis (PP), plasma exchange (PE), or therapeutic apheresis medically necessary for any of the following indications:

    1. Acute humoral rejection of renal transplants;
    2. Acute, severe neurological deficits caused by multiple sclerosis that have a poor response to treatment with high-dose glucocorticoids;
    3. Babesiosis if member has high-grade parasitemia (greater than or equal to 10 %), severe anemia (hemoglobin less than or equal to 10 g/dL), or hepatic, pulmonary, or renal compromise;
    4. Chronic relapsing polyneuropathy (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy [CIDP]) with severe or life-threatening symptoms, in persons who have failed to respond to conventional therapy.  (Note: Diagnosis of CIDP is documented by symmetric or focal neurological deficits with slowly progressive or relapsing course over 2 or more months with characteristic neurophysiological abnormalities);
    5. Essential thrombocythemia (when platelet count is greater than 1,000,000/mm3) (platelet pheresis);
    6. Glomerulonephritis associated with antiglomerular basement membrane antibodies and advancing renal failure or pulmonary hemorrhage;
    7. Goodpasture’s syndrome;
    8. HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome of pregnancy, in persons who are not getting better within 5 days after delivery;
    9. Hyperglobulinemias, including (but not limited to) multiple myelomas, cryoglobulinemia, and hyperviscosity syndromes;
    10. Last resort treatment of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, where conventional treatment (including corticosteroids) has failed (i.e., severe neurological deficits have persisted after treatment with corticosteroids);
    11. Last resort treatment of life-threatening rheumatoid vasculitis;
    12. Last resort treatment of life-threatening systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) when conventional therapy has failed to prevent clinical deterioration;
    13. Leukemia (leukapheresis) (for acute debulking only);
    14. Moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults with longstanding disease who have failed or are intolerant of disease–modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs);
    15. Myasthenia gravis, in persons with any of the following: (i) acute, short-term benefit is critical because of a sudden worsening of symptoms (such as in impending respiratory crisis), (ii) needs rapid improvement of strength before surgery or irradiation, or (iii) requires chronic intermittent treatment because of failure to respond to all other treatments;
    16. Pemphigus vulgaris that is resistant to standard therapy (dapsone, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants such as azathioprine or cyclosporine);
    17. Pruritus from cholestatic liver disease (plasma perfusion of charcoal filters), last resort treatment in persons who have failed (unless contraindicated): bile acid resins (cholestyramine or cholestepol), rifampin, ursodeoxycholic acid (in primary biliary cirrhosis), and opioid antagonists (naltrexone, naloxone or nalmefene); 
    18. Refsum's disease;
    19. Renal transplantation from live donor with ABO incompatibility or positive cross-match, where a suitable non-reactive live or cadaveric donor is unavailable;
    20. Scleroderma and polymyositis, in persons who are unresponsive to conventional therapy;
    21. Severe (grades 3 to 5) Guillain Barre' syndrome (consistent with guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, it is generally considered medically necessary to initiate PE within 2 weeks of onset of neuropathic symptoms for ambulant individuals and within 4 weeks of symptom onset for non-ambulant individuals);
    22. Severe hypercholesterolemia in persons refractory to diet and maximum drug therapy who are homozygous for familial hypercholesterolemia (LDL apheresis, also known as heparin-induced extracorporeal LDL precipitation (HELP) or dextra sulfate adsorption) with LDL levels greater than 500 mg/dL, or persons heterozygous for familial hypercholesterolemia with LDL levels greater than 300 mg/dL or greater than 200 mg/dL with documented history of coronary artery disease.  (For this policy, maximum drug therapy is defined as a 6-month trial of diet plus maximum tolerated combination drug therapy (defined as a trial of drugs from at least 2 separate classes of hypolipidemic agents such as bile acid sequestrants, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, fibric acid derivatives, or niacin/nicotinic acids).  Documented history of coronary artery disease is defined as a history of myocardial infarction: coronary artery bypass surgery; percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty; alternative revascularization procedure; or angina with coronary artery disease documented by stress test.  The frequency of LDL apheresis that is considered medically necessary varies, but typically averages about once every 2 weeks to obtain an intrapheresis level of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) of 120 mg/dL or less.  It may be considered medically necessary to treat individuals with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia more frequently);
    23. Sickle cell disease (therapeutic cytopheresis);
    24. Solid organ transplant from donor with positive cross-match, where a suitable non-reactive donor is unavailable;
    25. Treatment of neuromyelitis optica (Devic's syndrome) that is refractory to glucocorticoids;
    26. Treatment of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) or microangiopathic hemolytic anemia
    27. Treatment of transverse myelitis when corticosteroid treatment has failed.
    28. Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, prophylactic treatment in persons with IgM greater than or equal to 5000 mg/dL while on rituximab or ofatumumab mg/dL, to avoid aggravation of serum viscosity on the basis of IgM flare related to rituximab or ofatumumab. 
       
  2.  Aetna considers PP/PE experimental and investigational for all other indications, including the following conditions because the medical literature does not support the value of PP/PE for these indications:

    1. Acute pancreatitis related to hyperlipidemia;
    2. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
    3. Alzheimer's disease;
    4. Autoimmune inner ear disease;
    5. Bullous pemphigoid;
    6. Chronic fatigue syndrome;
    7. Chronic or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (maintenance therapy);
    8. Chronic urticaria;
    9. Hashimoto's encephalopathy;
    10. Idiopathic myopathy;
    11. Idiopathic progressive polyneuropathy
    12. Idiopathic sudden hearing loss;
    13. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura;
    14. Lupus nephritis;
    15. Miller Fisher syndrome;
    16. Multifocal motor neuropathy;
    17. Multiple myeloma;
    18. Necrobiotic xanogranulomatous skin disorder;
    19. Neuropathy associated with immunoglobulin M gammopathy;
    20. Neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS);
    21. Obsessive-compulsive disorder;
    22. Optic neuritis;
    23. Paraneoplastic syndromes including Eaton-Lambert syndrome and paraproteinemic polyneuropathy;
    24. Parkinson’s disease;
    25. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome;
    26. Psoriasis;
    27. Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis;
    28. Raynaud's phenomenon;
    29. Recurrent focal glomerulosclerosis after renal transplantation;
    30. Reducing perioperative blood transfusion;
    31. Regional enteritis;
    32. Sepsis;
    33. Sydenham's chorea.
       
  3. Aetna considers high density lipoprotein (HDL) delipidation and plasma re-infusion for acute coronary syndrome and all other indications experimental and investigational becasue its efectiveness has not been established.

See also CPB 0241 - Extracorporeal Photochemotherapy (Photopheresis) and CPB 0355 - Extracorporeal Immunoadsorption (Prosorba Column).



Background

The terms plasmapheresis (PP) and plasma exchange (PE) are often used interchangeably, but when properly used, denote different procedures.  Plasmapheresis refers to a procedure in which the plasma is separated from the blood either by centrifugation or membrane filtration.  Once separated the plasma can be manipulated in a variety of ways.  Plasma exchange refers to discarding the plasma totally and substituting a replacement fluid.  In this assessment PP/PE will be used to describe the combined procedure.

Randomized trials have shown that PP/PE is a safe and effective treatment of Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS), particularly if instituted early in the course of disease.  Hughes et al (2007) reported on a systematic evidence review of immunotherapy for GBS.  In 4 trials with altogether 585 severely affected adult participants, those treated with PP/PE improved significantly more on this scale 4 weeks after randomization than those who did not, weighted mean difference (WMD) -0.89 (95 % confidence interval (CI): -1.14 to -0.63).  In 5 trials with altogether 582 participants, the improvement on the disability grade scale with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was very similar to that with PP/PE, WMD -0.02 (95 % CI: -0.25 to 0.20).  There was also no significant difference between IVIG and PP/PE for any of the other outcome measures.  In 1 trial with 148 participants, following PP/PE with IVIG did not produce significant extra benefit.

Less conclusive information is available regarding PP/PE as a treatment of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP); however, this therapy is widely accepted by the medical community.  In a Cochrane systematic evidence review, Mehndiratta et al (2004) identified evidence from 2 small trials showing that PP/PE provides significant short-term benefit in about 2/3 of patients with CIDP but rapid deterioration may occur afterwards.  The authors reported that adverse events related to difficulty with venous access, use of citrate and hemodynamic changes are not uncommon.  The authors noted that a separate Cochrane evidence review found no significant difference in the benefit from PP/PE and IVIG.

Although PP/PE is an accepted treatment of GBS and CIDP, its mechanism of action is still poorly understood.  It is presumed that the symptomatology of these diseases is immune mediated and that PP/PE will remove the pathogenic immune circulating factors.  However, the specific immune factors responsible for the disease have not been identified.  Thus PP/PE is a non selective approach, eliminating the entire plasma.  It should be noted that both these therapies are primarily symptomatic; they do not directly address the production of the pathogenic factors.  Guillain Barre syndrome is an acute self-limited disease; therefore therapy is needed only for a limited period of time.  On the other hand, CIDP is a chronic disease, and PP/PE or IVIG is often needed on a chronic basis.  Physicians titrate the frequency of therapies to the recurrence of symptomatology.

Controlled clinical trials have failed to validate the effectiveness of PP/PE as a treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), polymyositis/dermatomyositis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Early small case series of PP/PE as a treatment of rheumatoid vasculitis have not been followed-up with larger controlled studies and no conclusions can be reached as to its effectiveness.  There is minimal information on other autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

There was early enthusiasm for PP/PE as a treatment of chronic rheumatic diseases.  The rationale was based on the fact that humoral factors, such as immunoglobulins or circulating immune complexes, can accumulate in the plasma in rheumatic diseases.  It was hypothesized that the removal of these factors by PP/PE would correct the clinical abnormality.  While PP/PE can indeed lower the serologic level of various disease markers such as circulating immune complexes, anti-DNA antibodies, cryoglobulins or rheumatoid factor, a positive clinical effect on symptomatology has not been demonstrated in clinical trials.  The discrepancy may be related to the fact that PP/PE is essentially a symptomatic treatment.  Although PP/PE may remove circulating immunoglobulins and immune complexes, their local production may persist unabated.

In a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of PP/PE, Shehata et al (2002) identified 8 studies (n = 192), 6 of rheumatoid arthritis and 2 studies of progressive systemic sclerosis (scleroderma).  Plasmapheresis/plasma exchange was not as effective as adjunctive therapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.  In addition, there were no benefits for the use of PP/PE in patients with progressive systemic sclerosis.  In 2 studies (n = 140) the addition of PP/PE was not shown to benefit disease activity, the relapse rate, or the number of deaths in patients with polyarteritis nodosa and Churg-Strauss syndrome.  In 7 studies (n = 268), therapeutic PP/PE has not been found to have an additive benefit in SLE patients with active disease or renal disease.

Choy et al (2005) reported on a systematic evidence review of immunotherapy for dermatomyositis and polymyositis.  The investigators reported that 2 randomized placebo-controlled trials assessing PE, leukapheresis and azathioprine produced negative results.  The authors concluded that this systematic review highlights the lack of high quality randomized controlled trials that assess the efficacy and toxicity of immunosuppressants in inflammatory myositis.

Franc et al (2005) reviewed the evidence from randomized controlled clinical trials for treatments for lupus nephritis.  The investigators found, based upon a review of clinical trials, that the current use of cyclophosphamide combined with steroids remains the best option to preserve renal function in proliferative lupus nephritis.  The authors found no benefit with addition of PE to cyclophosphamide or azathioprine plus steroids for mortality (RR 0.71, 95 % CI: 0.50 to 1.02), doubling of serum creatinine (RR 0.17, 95 % CI: 0.02 to 1.26) or end-stage renal failure (RR 1.24, 95 % CI: 0.60 to 2.57).

Fisher syndrome is one of the regional variants of GBS, characterized by impairment of eye movements (ophthalmoplegia), incoordination (ataxia) and loss of tendon reflexes (areflexia).  It can occur in more limited forms, and may overlap with GBS.  A Cochrane systematic evidence review found no randomized or non-randomized prospective controlled trials of immunotherapy in Fisher Syndrome or related disorders (Overell et al, 2007).  In the largest study of PP/PE for Miller Fischer syndrome reported to date, Mori et al (2002) reported on a retrospective analysis of 50 patients with Miller Fisher syndrome to determine its effect on speed of recovery.  The investigators found no effect of PP/PE on measures of speed of recovery.

There are no proven effective therapies for neuromyelitis optica.  Based on experimental and pathological evidence, it is thought that immunoglobulins and complement deposition are likely to play a role in the pathogenesis of neuromyelitis optica.  Glucocorticoids are typically used to treat cases acutely and may be beneficial.  Azathioprine has been used for subsequent attacks.  Information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2007) states that PE may be tried in patients who do not respond to glucocorticoids.  In an uncontrolled case series, 6 of 10 patients with neuromyelitis optica treated with PE showed moderate or marked improvement (Keegan et al, 2002).  A double-blind cross-over study of PP versus sham exchanges found that PP (7 exchanges of approximately 55 ml/kg administered every other day) was beneficial treating exacerbations of demyelinating disease (including neuromyelitis optica) that are not responsive to methylprednisolone (Weinshenker et al, 1999).

Lehmann et al (2008) examined the clinical value of therapeutic PE in the treatment of multi-focal motor neuropathy (MMN).  This study was a retrospective analysis of 7 patients with MMN, who underwent 4 to 18 sessions of PE.  Clinical response, electrophysiological parameter and anti-ganglioside antibody titers were reviewed.  Two patients, who had anti-ganglioside antibodies, exhibited transient clinical responses to PE, manifested by improved neurological function.  Whereas electrophysiological parameters continued to worsen in all patients, anti-ganglioside antibody titers declined during PE, but increased after PE.  The authors concluded that PE is of limited therapeutic value in patients with MMN, who do not respond to established treatment options.  It may only be useful as an adjunctive treatment in a subset of patients.  The transient decrease of anti-ganglioside-antibodies titers suggested that pathogenic humoral factors in MMN are only temporarily reduced.  Further, PE treatment alone is insufficient to prevent axons from continuing degeneration, which may explain the failure of PE to substantially influence the disease course of patients with MMN.

In a Cochrane review, Micheal et al (2009) evaluated the benefits and harms of different interventions for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) separately in patients of all ages.  The authors concluded that PE with fresh frozen plasma is still the most effective treatment available for TTP.  For patients with HUS, supportive therapy including dialysis is still the most effective treatment.  All studies in HUS have been conducted in the diarrheal form of the disease.  There were no randomized controlled trials evaluating the effectiveness of any interventions on patients with atypical HUS who have a more chronic and relapsing course.

The Multiple Sklerose Therapie Konsensus Gruppe (2006) stated that the monoclonal antibodies provide considerable improvement of treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), but their use in basic therapy is restricted by their side effect profile.  Thus, natalizumab is only approved for monotherapy after basic treatment has failed or for rapidly progressive relapsing-remitting MS.  In contrast, long-term data on recombinant beta-interferons and glatiramer acetate (Copaxone) show that even after several years no unexpected side effects occur and that a prolonged therapeutic effect can be assumed which correlates with the dose or frequency of treatment.  Recently IFN-beta1b (Betaferon) was approved for prophylactic treatment after the first attack (clinically isolated syndrome, CIS).  During treatment with beta-interferons, neutralizing antibodies can emerge with possible loss of effectivity.  In contrast, antibodies play no role in treatment with glatiramer acetate.  During or after therapy with mitoxantrone, serious side effects (cardiomyopathy, acute myeloid leukemia) appeared in 0.2 to 0.4 % of cases.  Plasmapheresis is limited to individual curative attempts in escalating therapy of a severe attack.  According to the revised McDonald criteria, the diagnosis of MS can be made as early as the occurrence of the first attack.

Tackenberg et al (2007) stated that the natural course of MS is probably more favorable than previously assumed years ago.  Since the introduction of interferons in Germany, the establishment and further development of new diagnostic criteria (McDonald criteria), the causal and symptomatic treatment possibilities and initiation of therapy early in the course of the disease have led to a considerable change in the treatment of MS.  Attacks of MS are usually treated with the intravenous administration of high-dosed steroids.  When the attack symptoms do not sufficiently subside, PP can be considered.  For long-term treatment of MS, beta interferon, glatirameracetate and natalizumab are available as basic causal therapy and natalizumab and mitoxantrone are available for escalation therapy.  Frequently occurring spasticity, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, cognitive disturbances, incontinence, pain, ataxia and sexual disorders must be treated symptomatically.  Overall, the outpatient treatment of MS is complex and should be carried out with close co-operation between the family doctor, neurological practices and outpatient departments specialized in treating MS.

Oh et al (2008) noted that B-cells and humoral immunity have been implicated in the pathogenesis of MS.  The most common pattern of demyelinating pathology in MS is associated with the deposition of antibodies and the activation of complement, as well as T-cells and macrophages.  Plasmapheresis has been found to be an efficient therapeutic approach in patients with this type of pathological lesion.

Matsui (2008) noted that Japanese patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) consists of 2 groups.  One is opticospinal form (OSMS), in which major neurological symptoms derive from optic neuritis and myelitis, and the other is conventional form (CMS) that shares similar genetical and clinical features with western type of MS.  Patients with OSMS tend to experience disease relapses more frequently with the resultant severer neurological deficit than CMS ones.  Both OSMS and CMS patients are treated with intravenous high-dose methylprednisolone in acute exacerbations, and PP may be considered for those who do not respond to repeated intravenous steroids.  For prevention of disease relapse, interferon-beta is effective; however, patients with long spinal cord lesion extending over 3 vertebral segments should be followed-up with caution, as this finding indicates a risk of treatment failure.

Ohji and Nomura (2008) discussed steroid pulse therapy and apheresis therapy indicated for the treatment of MS.  In the basic treatment course for MS, steroid pulse therapy is a 1st-line treatment for RR-MS in the course of the exacerbation, and apheresis therapy is performed in refractory cases.  Treatment strategies for chronic progressive MS are not to be established.  Steroid pulse therapy has been established as a treatment for MS in the active phase through randomized controlled trials (RCT).  Apheresis therapy includes PP and cytapheresis, and PP includes PE and immunoadsorption plasmapheresis (IAPP).  Plasma exchange and IAPP are performed for MS treatment.  The former has been established as a useful treatment for active phase MS.  The efficacy of IAPP has been frequently reported, but no reports have been based on RCT.

Schroder et al (2009) stated that apheresis is a general term that describes removal of abnormal blood constituents by extracorporeal blood purification methods.  To date, therapeutic PE is the most common apheresis procedure.  Here, plasma is separated from corpuscular blood constituents and replaced with a substitution fluid. In contrast to immunoadsorption, PE is a non-specific treatment modality with elimination of the entire plasma.  The therapeutic effect is based on the removal of circulating, pathogenic immune factors including autoantibodies.  Currently, PE is used for treatment of several immune-mediated neurological disorders.  While first experiences relate to acute life-threatening conditions, such as treatment of GBS or myasthenic crisis, therapeutic success was also shown in chronic diseases where immunosuppressive therapy is often required for long-term management.  Plasma exchange has been applied successfully in CIDP, paraproteinemic polyneuropathy, stiff person syndrome, and may also be tried in several diseases of paraneoplastic origin.  In recent years, PE was also established as an escalation therapy for steroid-unresponsive relapses of MS, and thus has gained more widespread attention.

Olek (2009) stated that PE may be beneficial in patients with acute central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory demyelinating disease who do not respond to glucocorticoid therapy.  In the only formally reported clinical trial, 22 patients with CNS demyelinating disease (12 with MS) were randomly assigned to either active PE or sham treatment, with a total of 7 treatments, given every 2 days over 14 days. Moderate or greater improvement in neurologic disability occurred during 8 of 19 (42 %) courses of active treatment compared with 1 of 17 (6 %) courses of sham treatment.  Improvement occurred early in the course of treatment and was sustained on follow-up.  However, 4 of the patients who responded to the active treatment experienced new attacks of demyelination during 6 months of follow-up.  Given these data, the author suggested treatment with PE for patients with acute, severe neurologic deficits caused by MS who have a poor response to treatment with high-dose glucocorticoids.

Ruprecht and colleagues (2004) reviewed a series of 10 consecutive patients treated with PE for acute, severe optic neuritis (ON) largely unresponsive to previous high-dose intravenous glucocorticosteroids.  Plasma exchange was associated with an improvement of visual acuity according to the study criteria in 7 of 10 patients.  On follow-up, 3 of these patients continued to improve, 2 remained stable, and 2 had worsened again.  The authors noted that PE may be beneficial as an escalating treatment in a subset of patients with severe ON; but a controlled trial is needed.  Furthermore, in a review on ON, Osborne and Volpe (2009) stated that data on the use of PE in the treatment of patients with ON are too scarce to make any recommendations.

Boada-Rovira (2010) noted that results from a pilot study and its 2-year extension performed on patients with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) revealed a tendency towards clinical stabilization after a PP program with PE with therapeutic albumin Human albumin Grifols 5 %.  Plasma levels of alphabeta(40) and alphabeta(42) presented a saw-tooth pattern associated to PE.  These findings encouraged a new randomized, controlled, parallel, blind study to confirm the previous working hypotheses, i.e., that alphabeta(40) and alphabeta(42) concentrations in plasma were modified pre- and post-PP with human albumin Grifols 5 % and, in the clinical area, that the cognitive capabilities of patients could be stabilized or even improved.  Other aims of the study were focused on neuroimaging evaluation of structural and functional changes in the brain the by means of magnetic resonance and single-photon emission computerized tomography.  Preliminary results from the randomized study performed after a follow-up of 1 year of the first 29 patients (80 % of the recruited) show a clear difference between the treated and the control groups with regard to the levels of alphabeta(40), both in plasma and in cerebrospinal fluid, that are associated with the PE.  This pattern is not so evident for alphabeta(42).  Regarding cognitive performance, the treated group scored better than the control group after the period study, according to the evaluation performed by using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and AD Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) tests.  The authors concluded that these preliminary results suggested that PP with PE with human albumin Grifols 5 % may have a promising future as a treatment of mild-moderate AD.

In a Cochrane review, Kirtschig et al (2010) evaluated treatments for bullous pemphigoid (BP); RCTs of treatments for subjects with immunofluorescence-confirmed BP were included in this analysis.  At least 2 authors evaluated the studies for the inclusion criteria, and extracted data independently.  A ttoal of 10 RCTs (with a total of 1,049 participants) of moderate-to-high risk of bias were selected.  All studies involved different comparisons, none had a placebo group.  In 1 trial PE plus prednisone gave significantly better disease control at 1 month (0.3 mg/kg: RR 18.78, 95 % CI: 1.20 to 293.70) than prednisone alone (1.0 mg/kg: RR 1.79, 95 % CI: 1.11 to 2.90), while another trial showed no difference in disease control at 6 months.No differences in disease control were seen for different doses or formulations of prednisolone (1 trial each), for azathioprine plus prednisone compared with prednisone alone (1 trial), for prednisolone plus azathioprine compared with prednisolone plus PE (1 trial), for prednisolone plus mycophenolate mofetil or plus azathioprine (1 trial), for tetracycline plus nicotinamide compared with prednisolone (1 trial).  Chinese traditional medicine plus prednisone was not effective in 1 trial.  There were no significant differences in healing in a comparison of a standard regimen of topical steroids (clobetasol) with a milder regimen (RR 1.00, 95 % CI: 0.97 to 1.03) in 1 trial.  In another trial, clobetasol showed significantly more disease control than oral prednisolone in people with extensive and moderate disease (RR 1.09, 95 % CI: 1.02 to 1.17), with significantly reduced mortality and adverse events (RR 1.06, 95 % CI: 1.00 to 1.12).  The authors concluded that very potent topical steroids are effective and safe treatments for BP, but their use in extensive disease may be limited by side-effects and practical factors.  Milder regimens (using lower doses of steroids) are safe and effective in moderate BP.  Starting doses of prednisolone greater than 0.75 mg/kg/day do not give additional benefit, lower doses may be adequate to control disease and reduce the incidence and severity of adverse reactions.  The effectiveness of adding PE, azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil to corticosteroids, and combination treatment with tetracycline and nicotinamide needs further investigation.

In January 2011, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published a new guideline on PP in neurologic disorders (Cortese et al, 2011).  It states that PP/PE can be used as 2nd-line treatment of steroid-resistant exacerbations in relapsing forms of MS.  Moreover, PP is established as ineffective and should not be offered for chronic or secondary progressive MS.  The guideline also stated that PP is probably not effective and should not be considered for neuropathy associated with immunoglobulin M gammopathy.

The AAN (Scott et al, 2011) evaluated the evidence for diagnostic tests and therapies for transverse myelitis (TM) and made evidence-based recommendations.  A review of the published literature from 1966 to March 2009 was performed, with evidence-based classification of relevant articles.  Level B recommendations: Neuromyelitis optica (NMO)-immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies should be considered useful to determine TM cause in patients presenting with clinical acute complete transverse myelitis (ACTM) features.  The presence of NMO-IgG antibodies (aquaporin-4-specific antibodies) should be considered useful in determining increased TM recurrence risk.  Level C recommendations: In suspected TM, distinction between ACTM or acute partial transverse myelitis may be considered useful to determine TM etiology and risk for relapse (more common with APTM).  Age and gender may be considered useful to determine etiology in patients presenting with TM syndrome, with spinal infarcts seen more often in older patients and more female than male patients having TM due to MS.  Brain MRI characteristics consistent with those of MS may be considered useful to predict conversion to MS after a first partial TM episode.  Longer spinal lesions extending over more than 3 vertebral segments may be considered useful in determining NMO versus MS.  Cerebrospinal fluid examination for cells and oligoclonal bands may be considered useful to determine the cause of the TM syndrome.  Plasma exchange may be considered in patients with TM who fail to improve after corticosteroid treatment.  Rituximab may be considered in patients with TM due to NMO to decrease the number of relapses.  Level U recommendations: There is insufficient evidence to support or refute the efficacy of other TM therapies or the usefulness of ethnicity to determine the cause of a subacute myelopathy.

An UpToDate review on “Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of babesiosis” (Gelfand and Vannier, 2012) states that “Partial or complete red cell exchange transfusion is appropriate for patients with high-grade parasitemia (≥10 percent), severe anemia (hemoglobin ≤10 g/dL), or pulmonary, renal, or hepatic compromise …. Exchange transfusion is intended to clear the systemic compartment of infected red blood cells, to remove inflammatory mediators and toxic by-products of cell lysis, and to correct anemia.  Management of exchange transfusion should be handled in close consultation with experts in hematology and pheresis.  A single red cell exchange may be adequate, but multiple exchanges may be needed.  A 90 percent reduction in parasitemia has been proposed as the desired target of red blood cell exchange in babesiosis.  The volume of allogeneic red cells required to achieve such reduction in parasitemia is predicted to be 2.5 times the estimated volume of recipient’s red blood cells”.

In a Cochrane review, Carless et al (2011) examined the evidence for the efficacy of platelet-rich plasmapheresis (PRP) in reducing peri-operative allogeneic red blood cell (RBC) transfusion, and the evidence for any effect on clinical outcomes such as mortality and re-operation rates.  These investigators identified studies by searching MEDLINE (1950 to 2009), EMBASE (1980 to 2009), the Cochrane Library (Issue 1, 2009), the Internet (to March 2009) and the reference lists of published articles, reports, and reviews.  Controlled parallel group trials in which adult patients, scheduled for non-urgent surgery, were randomized to PRP, or to a control group that did not receive the intervention were selected for analysis.  Primary outcomes measured were: the number of patients exposed to allogeneic RBC transfusion, and the amount of RBC transfused.  Other outcomes measured were: the number of patients exposed to allogeneic platelet transfusions, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate, blood loss, re-operation for bleeding, post-operative complications (thrombosis), mortality, and length of hospital stay.  Treatment effects were pooled using a random-effects model.  A total of 22 trials of PRP were identified that reported data for the number of patients exposed to allogeneic RBC transfusion.  These trials evaluated a total of 1,589 patients.  The relative risk (RR) of exposure to allogeneic blood transfusion in those patients randomized to PRP was 0.73 (95 % CI: 0.59 to 0.90), equating to a relative risk reduction (RRR) of 27 % and a risk difference (RD) of 19 % (95 % CI: 10 % to 29 %).  However, significant heterogeneity of treatment effect was observed (p < 0.00001; I² = 79 %).  When the 4 trials by Boldt were excluded, the RR is 0.76 (95 % CI: 0.62 to 0.93).  On average, PRP did not significantly reduce the total volume of RBC transfused (weighted mean difference [WMD] -0.69, 95 %CI: -1.93 to 0.56 units).  Trials provided inadequate data regarding the impact of PRP on morbidity, mortality, and hospital length of stay.  Trials were generally small and of poor methodological quality.  The authors concluded that although the results suggested that PRP is effective in reducing allogeneic RBC transfusion in adult patients undergoing elective surgery, there was considerable heterogeneity of treatment effects and the trials were of poor methodological quality.  They stated that the available studies provided inadequate data for firm conclusions to be drawn regarding the impact of PRP on clinically important endpoints.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (AACAP, 2012) stated that “Therapeutic plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin remain experimental interventions with substantial risk and potential morbidity”.

Hanna and Wong (2013) stated that sepsis remains an important challenge in pediatric critical care medicine.  These investigators provided an appraisal of adjunctive therapies for sepsis and high-lighted opportunities for meeting selected challenges in the field.  The authors stated that future clinical studies should address long-term and functional outcomes as well as acute outcomes.  Potential adjunctive therapies such as corticosteroids, hemo-filtration, hemo-adsorption, and PP may have important roles, but still require formal and more rigorous testing by way of clinical trials.

Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.  Plasma selective delipidation converts alphaHDL to prebeta-like HDL, the most effective form of HDL for lipid removal from arterial plaques.

Tardif et al (2007) investigated the effects of reconstituted HDL on plaque burden as assessed by intra-vascular ultrasound (IVUS).  Between July 2005 and October 2006, a total of 183 patients had a baseline IVUS examination and of those, 145 had evaluable serial IVUS examinations after 6 weeks.  A total of 60 patients were randomly assigned to receive 4 weekly infusions of placebo (saline); 111 to receive 40 mg/kg of reconstituted HDL (CSL-111); and 12 to receive 80 mg/kg of CSL-111.  The primary efficacy parameter was the percentage change in atheroma volume.  Nominal changes in plaque volume and plaque characterization index on IVUS and coronary score on quantitative coronary angiography were also pre-specified end-points.  The higher-dosage CSL-111 treatment group was discontinued early because of liver function test abnormalities.  The percentage change in atheroma volume was -3.4 % with CSL-111 and -1.6 % for placebo (p = 0.48 between groups, p < 0.001 versus baseline for CSL-111).  The nominal change in plaque volume was -5.3 mm3 with CSL-111 and -2.3 mm3 with placebo (p = 0.39 between groups, p < 0.001 versus baseline for CSL-111).  The mean changes in plaque characterization index on IVUS (-0.0097 for CSL-111 and 0.0128 with placebo) and mean changes in coronary score (-0.039 mm for CSL-111 and -0.071 mm with placebo) on quantitative coronary angiography were significantly different between groups (p = 0.01 and p = 0.03, respectively).  Administration of CSL-111 40 mg/kg was associated with mild, self-limiting transaminase elevation but was clinically well-tolerated.  The authors concluded that short-term infusions of reconstituted HDL resulted in no significant reductions in percentage change in atheroma volume or nominal change in plaque volume compared with placebo, but did result in statistically significant improvement in the plaque characterization index and coronary score on quantitative coronary angiography.  They stated that elevation of HDL remains a valid target in vascular disease and further studies of HDL infusions including trials with clinical end-points are needed.

Waksman et al (2010) examined if serial autologous infusions of selective HDL delipidated plasma are feasible and well-tolerated in patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).  Patients with ACS undergoing cardiac catheterization with greater than or equal to 1 non-obstructive native coronary artery atheroma were randomized to either 7 weekly HDL selective delipidated or control plasma apheresis/reinfusions.  Patients underwent IVUS evaluation of the target vessel during the catheterization for ACS and up to 14 days following the final apheresis/reinfusion session.  Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of delipidated plasmas established successful conversion of alphaHDL to prebeta-like HDL.  The trial was complete with 28 patients randomized.  All reinfusion sessions were tolerated well by all patients.  The levels of prebeta-like HDL and alphaHDL in the delipidated plasma converted from 5.6 % to 79.1 % and 92.8 % to 20.9 %, respectively.  The IVUS data demonstrated a numeric trend toward regression in the total atheroma volume of -12.18 +/- 36.75 mm(3) in the delipidated group versus an increase of total atheroma volume of 2.80 +/- 21.25 mm(3) in the control group (p = 0.268).  The authors concluded that in ACS patients, serial autologous infusions of selective HDL delipidated plasma are clinically feasible and well-tolerated.  They stated that this therapy may offer a novel adjunct treatment for patients presenting with ACS.  Moreover, they stated that further investigation is needed to determine its ability to reduce clinical cardiovascular events.

An UpToDate review on “HDL metabolism and approach to the patient with abnormal HDL-cholesterol levels” (Rosenson and Durrington, 2013) cited the study by Tardif et al (2007) and listed infusion of reconstituted HDL as an investigational therapy.  Moreover, the review does not mention HDL delipidation and plasma re-infusion as a therapeutic option.

Guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN, 2014) on Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia/Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma state that plasmapheresis should be performed for patients with symptomatic hyperviscosity, and before treatment with rituximab or ofatumumab containing regimen in patients with patients with IgM greater than or equal to 5000 mg/dL on ritxumab-containing therapy to avoid aggravation of serum viscosity on the basis of rituximab-containing IgM flare. The guidelines state that rituximab or ofatumumab may also be held in patients with elevated serum IgM levels for initial treatment cycles. 

Current guidelines recommend plasmapheresis for acute hemoral rejection of renal transplants. Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) clinical guidelines suggest treating antibody-mediated acute rejection with one or more of the following alternatives, with or without corticosteroids (2C recommendation):  plasma exchange; intravenous immunoglobulin; anti-CD20 antibody; or lymphocyte-depleting antibody (Kasiske, et al., 2009). European Association of Urology guidelines on renal transplantation (Kälble, et al., 2009) state that treatment of acute humoral rejection of a renal transplant may include steroid bolus therapy, conversion to tacrolimus, antibody elimination and intravenous immunoglobulin (Grade B recommendation). Guidelines from the Renal Association (Baker, et al., 2011) suggest that antibody mediated rejection should be treated with one or more of the following modalities: steroids; plasma exchange; intravenous immunoglobulin; anti-CD20 antibody; or lymphocyte-depleting antibody (2C recommendation).

 
CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-9 Codes
Plasmapheresis (PP) or plasma exchange (PE) :
CPT codes covered if selection criteria are met:
36514
36515
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
36516
93015 - 93018
Other HCPCS codes related to the CPB:
J7500 Azathioprine, oral, 50 mg
J7501 Azathioprine, parenteral, 100 mg
J7502 Cyclosporine, oral, 100 mg
J7515 Cyclosporine, oral, 25 mg
J7516 Cyclosporine, parenteral, 250 mg
ICD-9 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
088.82 Babesiosis [if member has high-grade parasitemia greater than or equal to 10%]
203.00 - 203.02 Multiple myeloma
238.71 Essential thrombocythemia
245.2 Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis
272.0 Pure hypercholesterolemia [in persons refractory to diet and maximum drug therapy see criteria1-17]
273.2 Cryoglobulinemias
273.3 Macroglobulinemia [Waldenström's macroglobulinemia]
273.8 Hyperglobulinemias
283.0 Autoimmune hemolytic anemias
283.19 Other non-autoimmune hemolytic anemias [microangiopathic]
289.0 Polycythemia, secondary
323.81 Other causes of encephalitis and encephalomyelitis
323.82 Other causes of myelitis (transverse)[ who fail to improve after corticosteroid treatment]
340 Multiple sclerosis [acute, severe neurological deficits with poor response to treatment with high-dose glucocorticoids] [not covered for chronic or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (maintenance therapy)]
341.0 Neuromyelitis optica [Devic's syndrome]
341.20 Acute (transverse) myelitis [who fail to improve after corticosteroid treatment]
341.21 Acute (transverse) myelitis in conditions classified elsewhere [who fail to improve after corticosteroid treatment]
341.22 Idiopathic transverse myelitis [who fail to improve after corticosteroid treatment]
356.3 Refsum's disease
357.0 Guillian-Barre syndrome [covered for severe, grades 3-5 Guillain-Barre syndrome - not covered for Miller Fisher syndrome]
357.81 Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuritis [CIDP with severe or life threatening symptoms , in persons who have failed to respond ]
358.00 - 358.01 Myasthenia gravis [acute with sudden worsening of symptoms][needs rapid improvement of strength before surgery or irradiation] [intermittent treatment for failure to respond to all other treatments] [neuropathy associated with immunoglobulin M gammopathy]
446.21 Goodpasture's syndrome
446.6 Thrombotic microangiopathy
573.8 Other specified disorders of liver [pruritis from cholestatic liver disease]
576.2 Obstruction of bile duct
580.0 - 583.9 Acute glomerulonephritis, nephrotic syndrome, chronic glomerulonephritis, and nephritis and nephropathy, not specified as acute or chronic [associated with antiglomerular basement membrane antibodies and advancing renal failure or pulmonary hemorrhage]
585.1 - 586 Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and renal failure, unspecified
642.50 - 642.54 Severe pre-eclampsia (HELLP syndrome) [in persons not getting better within 5 days of delivery]
694.4 Pemphigus [vulgaris] [resistant to standard therapy]
698.0 - 698.9 Pruritus and related conditions [pruritis from cholestatic liver disease]
710.0 Systemic lupus erythematosus [life threatening, last resort when conventional therapy has failed]
710.1 Systemic sclerosis [in persons unresponsive to conventional therapy]
710.3 Dermatomyositis
710.4 Polymyositis [in persons unresponsive to conventional therapy]
714.0 - 714.4 Rheumatoid arthritis [moderate to severe active in adults with longstanding who have failed or are intolerant of diseases-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)]
ICD-9 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
038.0 - 038.9 Septicemia
203.00 - 203.02 Multiple myeloma
287.31 Immune thrombocytopenic purpura
300.3 Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
331.0 Alzheimer's disease
332.0 - 332.1 Parkinson's disease
335.20 Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
350.1-356.2, 356.4-356.9, 357.1-357.7, 357.82-357.9, 358.2-358.9 Nerve disorders, nerve root and plexus disorders, mononeuritis, neuropathy, and myoneural disorders (except Refsum's disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuritis, and myasthenia gravis) [neuropathy associated with immunoglobulin M gammopathy] [idiopathic progressive polyneuropathy]
359.9 Myopathy, unspecified [idiopathic]
377.30 - 377.39 Optic neuritis
388.2 Sudden hearing loss, unspecified [idiopathic]
392.9 Rheumatic chorea without mention of heart involvement [Sydenham's chorea]
411.1 Intermediate coronary syndrome
443.0 Raynaud's syndrome
516.0 Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis
555.0 - 555.9 Regional enteritis
577.0 Acute pancreatitis [related to hyperlipidemia]
694.5 Pemphigoid
708.8 Other specified urticaria [chronic urticaria]
780.71 Chronic fatigue syndrome
785.0 Tachycardia, unspecified [postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome]
996.81 Complications of transplanted kidney [recurrent focal segmental glomerulosclerosis after renal transplantation]
Other ICD-9 codes related to the CPB:
412 Old myocardial infarction
413.9 Other and unspecified angina pectoris
414.00 - 414.07 Coronary atherosclerosis
698.8 - 698.9 Other and unspecified pruritis [from cholestatic liver disease]
786.30 Hemoptysis, unspecified
786.31 Acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants [AIPHI]
786.39 Other hemoptysis
V12.59 Personal history of other diseases of circulatory system
V42.0 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, kidney
V42.1 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, heart
V42.6 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, lung
V42.7 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, liver
V42.83 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, pancreas
V42.84 Organ or tissue replaced by transplant, intestines
V45.81 Aortocoronary bypass status
V45.82 Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty status
Leukapheresis :
CPT code covered if selection criteria are met:
36511
ICD-9 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
203.10 - 203.12 Plasma cell leukemia
204.00 - 208.92 Lymphoid, myeloid, monocytic, other specified, and unspecified leukemias
Therapeutic cytopheresis:
CPT code covered if selection criteria are met:
36512
ICD-9 codes covered if selection criteria are met:
282.60 - 282.69 Sickle cell anemia


The above policy is based on the following references:
  1. Rock GA, Shumak KH, Buskard NA, et al. Comparison of plasma exchange with plasma infusion in the treatment of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. N Engl J Med. 1991;325(6):393-397.
  2. Martin JN Jr, Files JC, Blake PG, et al. Postpartum plasma exchange for atypical preeclampsia-eclampsia as HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995;172(4 Pt 1):1107-1125; discussion 1125-1127.
  3. van Der Meche FG, Schmitz PI. A randomized trial comparing intravenous immune globulin and plasma exchange in Guillain Barre syndrome. N Engl J Med. 1992;3267):1123-1129.
  4. Rock G, Buskard NA. Therapeutic plasmapheresis. Curr Opin Hematol 1996; 3(6):504-510.
  5. Toyka KV, Hartung HP. Chronic inflammatory polyneuritis and neuropathies. Curr Opin Neurol. 1996;9(3):240-250.
  6. Kankam CG, Sallis R. Guillain-Barre syndrome: A severe case calling for intensive treatment. Postgrad Med. 1997;101(3) 279-280, 285-290.
  7. Lewis EJ, Hunsicker LG, Lan SP, et al. A controlled trial of plasmapheresis therapy in severe lupus nephritis. N Engl J Med. 1992;326(21):1373-1379.
  8. Miller FW, Leitman SF, Cronin ME, et al. Controlled trial of plasma exchange and leukapheresis in polymyositis and dermatomyositis. N Engl J Med. 1992;326(21):1380-1384.
  9. Wallace D, Goldfinger D, Lowe C, et al. A double-blind controlled study of lymphoplasmapheresis versus sham apheresis in rheumatoid arthritis. N Engl J Med. 1982;306(23):1406-1410.
  10. Dwosh IL, Giles AR, Ford PM, et al. Plasmapheresis therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: A controlled double-blind crossover trial. N Engl J Med. 1983;308(19):1124-1129.
  11. Vamvakas EC, Pineda AA, Weinshenker BG. Meta-analysis of clinical studies of the efficacy of plasma exchange in the treatment of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. J Clin Apheresis. 1995;10(4):163-170.
  12. Sorensen PS, Wanscher B, Szpirt W, et al. Plasma exchange combined with azathioprine in multiple sclerosis using serial gadolinium-enhanced MRI to monitor disease activity: A randomized single-masked cross-over pilot study. Neurology. 1996;46(6):1620-1625.
  13. No authors listed. What are the new treatments for myasthenia gravis? Johns Hopkins Med Lett Health After 50. 1998;10(9):8.
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  15. Sybesma JP, Hertzberger LI. Favorable results of plasmapheresis in severe myasthenia gravis. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 1997;141(17):844-845.
  16. American Medical Association (AMA). Therapeutic apheresis (plasmapheresis) for nonrenal and renal indications. Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technology Assessment (DATTA). Chicago, IL: AMA; June 1996.
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  19. Ogawa H, Matsumoto Y. The efficacy of plasmapheresis or leukocytapheresis for articular and extraarticular manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis. Ther Apher. 1997;1(4):330-335.
  20. Kashiwagi N, Hirata I, Kasukawa R. A role for granulocyte and monocyte apheresis in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Ther Apher. 1998;2(2):134-141.
  21. Hidaka T, Suzuki K, Matsuki Y, et al. Filtration leukocytapheresis therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum. 1999;42(3):431-437.
  22. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Bethesda, MD: NIH; 2001. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atp3_rpt.htm. Accessed July 2, 2002.
  23. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Devices and Radiologic Health (CDRH). H.E.L.P. (Heparin-induced Extracorporeal Lipoprotein Precipitation) System. Summary of Safety and Effectiveness Data. PMA No. P940016. Rockville, MD: FDA; September 17, 1997. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/pmasep97.html. Accessed July 2, 2002.
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  42. Mazzi G, Raineri A, Zanolli FA, et al. Plasmapheresis therapy in pemphigus vulgaris and bullous pemphigoid. Transfus Apheresis Sci. 2003;28(1):13-18.
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  48. Tan-Lim R, Bystryn JC. Effect of plasmapheresis therapy on circulating levels of pemphigus antibodies. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1990;22(1):35-40.
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  58. Larson DF, Elkund DK, Arabia F, Copeland JG. Plasmapheresis during cardiopulmonary bypass: a proposed treatment for presensitized cardiac transplantation patients. J Extra Corpor Technol. 1999;31(4):177-183.
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  61. Robinson JA. Apheresis in thoracic organ transplantation. Ther Apher. 1999;3(1):34-39.
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