Azar Selling Out Healthcare First Responders to Please Big Pharma | 340B Matters
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14 Sep Azar Selling Out Healthcare First Responders to Please Big Pharma

By 340B Matters

Safety-net healthcare providers and first responders on the front lines of a global pandemic are facing an illegal campaign from drug companies to raise drug prices. These heroes have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to intervene.

His silence is deafening.

Azar is unlikely to come to the aid of hospitals and clinics in the 340B Drug Discount Program because he’s a once and future drug company executive who led Eli Lilly’s American operations. Lilly, along with AstraZeneca, has refused to provide discounted 340B pricing on their full product lines to hospitals and clinics that use contracted pharmacies to better reach their patients.

That move directly flouts the 340B statute which requires drug makers to provide discounted pricing to safety-net providers if they wish to participate in state Medicaid programs.

The scheme – which should sound anti-trust alarms at the Justice Department — is going to deeply impact low-income and underinsured patients in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as health providers are forced to cut back services.

“We urge you to act immediately against any drug manufacturer employing these pernicious tactics to ensure that 340B drugs are available and accessible to vulnerable communities,” wrote American Hospital Association CEO Richard Pollack in an Sept. 8 letter to Azar. Eleven hundred safety-net hospitals recently delivered a similar request to the Secretary.

If only it were that simple. Azar had a long track record at Lilly and oversaw the company’s usurious price increases on insulin before he joined the Trump administration. He is neither a friend of lowering drug prices nor the 340B program.

Merck, Sanofi and Novartis have also moved against 340B healthcare providers, trying to swamp them with burdensome paperwork. Tragically, the cavalry from HHS won’t be coming over the hill to help them. Safety-net providers will have to defend themselves against pharmaceutical manufacturers’ greedy profit-mongering.

Azar is no-doubt auditioning for his next job at a big drug company so he is willingly selling out America’s safety-net health providers and the communities of color they serve.

It’s ironic that Azar’s silence will reward drug manufacturers by putting millions of dollars into their pockets at a time when those same companies have spent a fortune on television ads assaulting Azar’s boss, President Trump, for trying to lower drug prices.

It’s obvious that Azar’s desire to please Big Pharma is greater than his loyalty to the president who appointed him — or to America’s healthcare first responders that need access to lower drug prices.


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