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Spanberger leads bipartisan effort to save 340B Drug Pricing Program

healthcare prescription drug
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Abigail Spanberger is leading a bipartisan effort to defend the 340B Drug Pricing Program from changes that have led to prescription drug cost hikes for Virginia healthcare providers.

The 340B Drug Pricing Program was enacted by Congress in 1992 with bipartisan support and is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program requires that pharmaceutical companies give safety-net and rural healthcare providers discounts on their drugs, in exchange for having their drugs covered by Medicaid.

The program has a demonstrated record of protecting patients who are low-income, live in underserved communities, or suffer from serious chronic illnesses from the threat of skyrocketing prices for the drugs they depend on the most.

Last summer, some drug manufacturers stopped honoring 340B discounts for drugs dispensed through pharmacies that contracted with 340B providers, dramatically increasing the price of those drugs for vulnerable patients and providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December, HHS’s General Counsel published an advisory opinion that the manufacturers’ price hikes on safety net providers are unlawful under the 340B statute.

In a letter sent to Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran, Spanberger, D-Va., and 225 of her congressional colleagues called on HHS to take immediate action against manufacturers that refuse to comply with their obligation to provide safety net and rural providers with discounted drugs and require manufacturers to refund the providers for months of unlawful overcharges.

The group called on HHS to preserve covered entities’ access to upfront rebates, which would be consistent would longstanding program guidance.

“Beginning in the summer of 2020, several drug manufacturers began to announce a range of actions to avoid honoring 340B discounts for certain drugs, many with the highest prices, delivered to covered entities’ contract pharmacies,” Spanberger and her colleagues wrote in their letter. “Some manufacturers have announced they will no longer ship discounted drugs to contract pharmacies; others will ship to only one contract pharmacy per covered entity.”

“Many covered entities are struggling with severe financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” their letter continued. “They cannot afford to be unfairly targeted by large pharmaceutical corporations or be forced to pay higher up-front costs for the drugs their patients need.”

“CVHS is pleased to see such significant bipartisan support, particularly amongst the Virginia delegation, urging HHS to take action to protect covered entities participation and fair purchasing in the 340B program. The savings from the 340B program ensure equity in healthcare for all our patients,” said Paula Tomko, CEO, Central Virginia Health Services. “Without action, those most vulnerable in our communities would feel the impact the greatest. We hope HHS will remedy past actions so that covered entities, such as FQHCs, can continue to provide additional services that may be otherwise inaccessible to uninsured patients.”

“The AHA thanks this bipartisan group of representatives for their important effort to protect the 340B program, and the vulnerable communities it benefits, from big drug companies’ efforts to harm the program,” said Tom Nickels, executive vice president, American Hospital Association. “The AHA continues to urge the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to take swift and decisive action to halt these pernicious tactics from drug companies and ensure that 340B drugs remain available and accessible to vulnerable patients and communities across the country.”

“The 340B program is an invaluable resource to Community Health Centers and their patients, allowing them to access low-cost and life-saving prescription drugs,” said Tom Van Coverden, president and CEO, National Association of Community Health Centers. “We applaud the bipartisan work of these leaders in Congress in pressing the Department of Health and Human Services to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for violating their obligations under the law. The 340B program is a critical lifeline, especially as we continue to fight COVID-19 in hard hit communities.”

“RWC-340B was proud to endorse this letter and thrilled with the bipartisan support from so many members of Congress and the leadership of Rep. Spanberger and Rep. McKinley in asking HHS to stop these manufacturers’ unconscionable attacks on safety net providers,” said Shannon Stephenson, CPA, MBA, President, Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access (RWC-340B).  “These manufacturers’ unilateral actions directly and dramatically undermine the 340B Drug Pricing Program and the vulnerable populations we serve, all while we are fighting not only the HIV/AIDS epidemic but also the COVID pandemic.”

“The AAMC thanks the members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who came together to protect the 340B program and patients who depend on it,” said Karen Fisher, JD, chief public policy officer, Association of American Medical Colleges. “This is an unwarranted attempt by several major drug companies to undermine this vital program that allows safety net hospitals, including many teaching hospitals, to provide critical health care services to vulnerable patients in communities across the country, and it is particularly concerning as our health care system and our country address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

augusta free press
augusta free press