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January 24, 2020

DES MOINES, IA – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced that the University of Iowa Hospital has been designated as Blue Distinction® Centers for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T, a new designation under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated hospitals that show a commitment to delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies to treat certain types of patients with leukemia (Kymriah®) and lymphoma (Yescarta® and Kymriah®). An estimated 143,480 people were diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma in 2018. CAR-T therapy offers new options for many after other treatments stop working, by redesigning the patient's own immune cells, which usually fight infections, to fight cancer cells instead. The new Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T program designates hospitals that use evidence-based practices to deliver CAR-T therapies.

To receive a Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T designation, hospitals must be certified by a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) External Site program which is required by the FDA to provide CAR-T therapies and must be accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), including Standards for Immune Effector Cells. Additionally, designated hospitals must commit to systemwide monitoring and reporting of CAR-T patient outcomes, through the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) registry. Designated hospitals will also have a payment model in place that includes patient protection against mark-up over their wholesale acquisition cost for CAR-T specialty pharmacy products.

Since CAR-T therapies were recently introduced into clinical use, the designation criteria was created to begin to acknowledge the expertise needed to deliver these new treatments.

"The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program seeks to help patients find quality care and encourages health professionals to improve the overall delivery of care nationwide," said Jennifer Atkins, vice president, Network Solutions for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. "With Blue Distinction Centers for Cellular Immunotherapy – CAR-T, the thousands of children and adults battling leukemia and lymphoma who may be appropriate candidates for this new therapy can identify hospitals using evidence-based, patient-centered care, so they can focus on what matters the most – their health."

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality specialty care in the areas of bariatric surgery, cancer care, cardiac care, cellular immunotherapy, fertility care, gene therapy, knee and hip replacements, maternity care, spine surgery, and transplants, while encouraging health care professionals to improve the care they deliver. Research for many programs shows that, compared to other providers, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients.

For more information about the program and for a complete listing of the designated providers, visit External Site.