19 Oct Big Pharma’s Stinking Thinking Shows in Arkansas
By 340B Matters
If there were any doubts about just how idiotic Big Pharma’s arguments can be against the 340B Drug Discount Program, look no further than Arkansas where the industry is desperate to stop a new law protecting it.
This spring, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Act 1103 into law. The statute makes it illegal for manufacturers to refuse 340B discounts to safety-net healthcare providers using community pharmacies to distribute medicines to their patients. It was passed to help Arkansas’ struggling hospitals and clinics during the pandemic. The new state law also codifies a protection that is implicit in the original federal 340B law. The move is a direct challenge to the drug industry which has spent more than a decade trying to kill the program.
At latest count, eight huge drug companies are brazenly and illegally withholding 340B discounts to hospitals and clinics that use community pharmacies to increase access to life saving medication. That fight is currently crawling through federal courts.
Soon after Act 1103 became law, the drug manufacturer’s lobbying behemoth PhRMA successfully petitioned the Arkansas Insurance Commission to issue a 90-day stay (which ends October 26). And on September 29, PhRMA filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas saying the law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with federal law. The group also argues that the law is unconstitutional because it is a state statute that regulates commerce occurring outside Arkansas.
Given the drug industry’s limitless pocketbook, it’s shocking that the legions of lawyers on PHRMA’s payroll could only muster these meager arguments.
The reasoning here is patently soft-headed, and plenty of people think so. The Attorney General of Arkansas, the Arkansas Insurance Commissioner, Arkansas Community Health Centers Association, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Pharmacists Association, and Baxter Regional Medical Center all argue against PhRMA’s legal position on the following grounds:
1. The Arkansas law is consistent with the 340B statute and federal administration of the program.
2. The law does not violate the Commerce Clause because the Arkansas legislature is free to regulate matters in the interest of public health and safety in its state.
And, last we checked, Arkansas’ pharmacies are firmly located within the state’s borders. Why wouldn’t the legislature have purview over commerce there?
It’s just more stinking thinking from Big Pharma on 340B.
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