18 Mar 340B Matters Open Letter to HHS Secretary Becerra
By 340B Matters
Dear Secretary Becerra,
Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. You take the reins of the department during a national healthcare crisis. While your days will be hectic and full of enormous challenges and opportunities, preserving and protecting the 340B Drug Discount Program should be high on your agenda. It’s more important than ever during the current pandemic.
We applaud your recent support of the program and the letter you and other attorneys general sent to your predecessor, Alex Azar. The situation has not changed. Eli Lilly, Novo-Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Novartis and United Therapeutics – the “Shameful Six” – continue to deny 340B discounts to safety-net healthcare providers that contract with area pharmacies, in direct contravention of the law.
You are now in a position to address this egregious conduct by a small group of greedy drug manufacturers. First, we urge you to levy civil monetary penalties against these errant companies. They should have to pay dearly for every single day they break the law.
Second, if they continue to refuse full compliance with the 340B law, you should remove and delist the Shameful Six from selling into the Medicaid, Medicare Part B, and Veterans Affairs markets.
The 340B Drug Discount Program was created by Congress in 1991 requiring drug companies to supply lower-priced outpatient medications to public and nonprofit hospitals and clinics treating large numbers of low-income patients. In return, these manufacturers are allowed to sell to the lucrative Medicaid and Medicare markets. The Shameful Six have blatantly broken this covenant. Targeting the bottom line is the only way to stop their illegal behavior.
We also suggest you coordinate with the Department of Justice to determine additional potential statutory violations. There is a strong appearance of collusion with regard to the timing and content of the companies’ actions against 340B.
Healthcare first responders are facing enormous economic challenges to treat thousands of patients who cannot afford to pay for pandemic-related care. 340B is a crucial economic lifeline that helps safety-net providers keep clinics and emergency rooms open. And it allows them to supply patients with low-cost and no-cost medications and services.
The program also helps reduce racial and ethnic healthcare disparities as 340B providers treat high numbers of African American and LatinX patients. For example, the percentage of African American patients treated in 340B hospitals is 66 percent higher than at facilities not in the program, according to a study by the trade association 340B Health. Unless you take strong action against the Shameful Six, these disparities will be aggravated in the communities that can least afford it.
Secretary Becerra, we trust you will champion 340B in its hour of need.
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