ASAP340B: Political Bedfellows from Hell
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15 Mar ASAP340B: Political Bedfellows from Hell

By 340B Matters

Greed and political expediency can lead to the darkest places. Take the new group ASAP340B, an ungodly confederation of Big Pharma, Community Health Centers and a handful of organizations likely paid for by the drug industry. Improving the 340B Drug Discount Program is not their goal.

It’s all about driving safety-net hospitals out.

Pharma and the CHCs have joined forces to shrink 340B into a rump program, preserving it for the health centers and few other providers. Their ideal solution, based on the tired lie that 340B was intended to be a direct patient benefit, would leave hundreds of urban and rural non-profit hospitals with fewer resources to serve America’s neediest patients.

The affrontery and hubris are hard to stomach. Hospitals aren’t part of the “true” safety net? Treating large numbers of America’s sickest and poorest patients isn’t enough to make them eligible for 340B? Community pharmacies don’t help patients get medicine closer to home? Beyond the absurdity of those nonsensical assertions, check out these policy gems served on a silver platter for the sole benefit of the drug industry: severely limiting contract pharmacy participation and requiring hospitals to generate reams of needless claims data.

One word: Despicable.

We’re hard-pressed to think of a way these proposals could be any worse for America’s healthcare safety net. None of the suggestions address Big Pharma’s own considerable transgressions when it comes to 340B. Rather, it’s an effort to rewrite the deal with Congress that created the program in the first place: Drug companies agreed to provide discounted drugs to safety-net providers in return for selling billions in medicines to the Medicaid and Medicare programs annually.

Other stakeholders are equally disgusted with the new group’s plan.

“Health centers are doing a deal with the devil, giving PhRMA the means to kill 340B,” said Aids Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. “[The National Association of Community Health Centers], selfishly, has thrown all nonprofit 340B providers, hospitals, and clinics under the bus. This is a betrayal by the community clinics that invites the fox into the henhouse. We will fight this unholy alliance fiercely.”

Said Amy Kuhlman, the American Hospital Association’s chief lobbyist: “No amount of Orwellian language can hide the fact that the real victims of this self-interested proposal will be the millions of patients and communities that 340B hospitals serve each day.”

It wouldn’t surprise us to see one of PhRMA’s supporters in Congress file proposed legislation that mimics its misbegotten wish list. But make no mistake: Congress has supported the 340B program for decades on a bi-partisan basis. Lawmakers will not fall for the drug industry’s latest PR effort to rewrite the 340B statute.

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