Independence Blue Cross launches network for pricey gene therapies

Independence Blue Cross is launching a network to manage the cost and outcomes of gene-based therapies with Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Gene-based therapies can treat rare genetic conditions but come with sky-high price tags. Luxturna, which can treat an inherited form of vision loss, launched at a cost of $850,000, according to an analysis from Optum. Zolgensma, which can treat spinal muscular atrophy, launched at $2.125 million. 

Independence Blue Cross members who meet coverage criteria will be eligible to access therapies through Penn Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, according to a Jan. 26 press release. 

Though gene-based therapies are expensive, the treatments have "so much potential" to improve patients' quality of life, Rodrigo Cerdá, MD, senior vice president of health services and chief medical officer for Independence Blue Cross, said in the release. 

"That's why we're committed to making sure our members have continued access to these important treatment options," Dr. Cerdá said. 

The payer is also pursuing outcome-based agreements with drug manufacturers for new gene-based drugs coming to market, according to the release. 

"Innovative strategies like this are an important step in helping to manage the high cost of these therapies. Outcomes-based agreements work a lot like a money-back guarantee," Susan Larking, senior vice president for health markets at Independence Blue Cross, said in the release. 

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