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340B Drug Pricing Program jeopardized by Big Pharma

Section 340B of the Public Health Service Act, also known as the 340B Drug Pricing Program, has provided financial help to hospitals that serve the most vulnerable for more than 25 years. The program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers that participate in Medicaid to sell prescription medications at discounted prices to healthcare organizations like Community HealthCare System, or CHCS, that care for many uninsured and low-income patients. The program helps CHCS decrease prices of prescriptions for patients and provide funding to support other services.

CHCS, along with healthcare advocates around the country, is dismayed at efforts to disable the program. Our hope is that citizens will learn more about the program and contact federal legislators to ask for help defending 340B.

The 340B program results in significant savings for patients. For example, an underinsured 63-year-old patient with diabetes and hypertension paid $15.49 per month for prescriptions rather than $621; an 82-year-old with cancer paid $31.99 instead of $1,841 for two prescription medications; and a 38-year-old with hypertension and other conditions saw a monthly co-pay decrease from $480 to $63.24.

The program also helps nonprofit healthcare organizations like CHCS provide both basic and enhanced healthcare services in our rural area. In fiscal year 2020, CHCS received $1.46 million in 340B support and spent $1.09 million on pharmaceuticals. CHCS assumed $1.19 million in uncompensated care and bad debt. Savings from the 340B program have helped financially support the following:

  • Estimated annual patient savings on prescription drugs of more than $900,000;
  • Full-time medical services in our communities (Onaga, Holton, Frankfort, Westmoreland, Centralia, and St. Marys);
  • Relationships with local pharmacies in Seneca, Holton, Onaga, St. Marys, Blue Rapids, Topeka, and Marysville;
  • Stop the Bleed training in rural northeast Kansas communities;
  • Mental Health First Aid scholarships for community members to help them learn how to assist those experiencing mental health crises; and
  • A smoking cessation program.

Unfortunately, some major drug manufacturers have unilaterally stopped providing required 340B discounts when drugs are dispensed at community pharmacies or are asking for access to patient insurance claims and placing new reporting demands on hospitals. The companies are seeking to eliminate 340B discounts even as they continue to offer rebates to large insurance companies. All of this is being done in an effort to cripple the program for rural pharmacies and hospitals.

340B directly benefits vulnerable, underserved patients; small, independent neighborhood pharmacies like those on Main Street in our farming communities; and America’s rural hospitals. We hope the citizens of northeast Kansas will help us communicate the importance of protecting the health of our rural communities by communicating the importance of this program to federal legislators, particularly our U.S. Senators, including whoever wins the November election between Dr. Roger Marshall and Dr. Barbara Bollier. Ask them to stop large pharmaceutical companies from violating the 340B statute and to act to protect patients from losing access to a wide range of services. Ask them to call on Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to use his authority to put a stop to these harmful actions and protect patients and the healthcare organizations who care for them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how crucial it is to have reliable, safe healthcare in rural areas. Thank you for your efforts to protect our communities. If you have questions, please contact Todd Willert, CEO, or Hali Brown, Doctor of Pharmacy and CHCS pharmacy manager, via email by [email protected].

1 comment

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  • Craig | Nov 18th 2020 @ 12:29 PM

    Thank you.

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