Drug Companies Mount Unilateral Attacks on 340B Program | 340B Matters
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23 Jul Drug Companies Mount Unilateral Attacks on 340B Program

By 340B Matters

Big Pharma has spent years and millions of dollars in an unsuccessful campaign to destroy a program that strengthens our nation’s public health system at no cost to taxpayers: the 340B Drug Discount Program. Because of strong bi-partisan support for 340B in Congress, drug manufacturers are now getting desperate.

Drugmakers Eli Lilly and Merck recently launched direct, unilateral attacks against the program. If the new tactics succeed, other leading pharmaceutical companies may follow suit.

Drug companies hate 340B because it requires them to sell medications at a discount to hospitals and clinics that treat the underserved in our communities. There’s no doubt they still make money selling 340B drugs, but it’s not enough to satisfy their bottomless greed.

Eli Lilly announced in early July that it would no longer offer 340B discounted prices on a certain prescription drug if the health provider ships them to a contracted pharmacy. Thousands of safety-net hospitals and federal health centers rely on these pharmacies to make discounted medicines more easily available in their communities.

It’s a dirty tactic that the 340B Coalition says contradicts the federal 340B law. “There is no provision under the statute that allows Lilly to deny 340B pricing to [an eligible healthcare provider], or require that a drug … be shipped only to locations that the manufacturer has approved,” said the group in a July 16 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “Lilly’s pharmacy policy is a clear violation of the law and HHS is compelled to take action to stop it.”

A few weeks before Lilly made its legally dubious edict, drug giant Merck proclaimed that healthcare providers must submit certain claims data for commonly dispensed drugs to help the company avoid duplicate discounts — or face “further action.” This situation occurs when an already discounted 340B drug is also submitted for a state Medicaid rebate. However, Merck is requesting additional claims data beyond Medicaid.

The company’s unnecessary and heavy-handed request completely ignores the existing resolution mechanisms for potential duplicates, which include an audit of the healthcare provider in question at the drug company’s behest. Besides being obnoxiously burdensome and superfluous, Merck’s request also breaks the law because the “340B statute does not permit drug companies to set up barriers to 340B pricing,” according to the Coalition’s letter.

These unilateral moves by Lilly and Merck smack of desperation. Having failed at persuading Congress or either the Trump or Obama administrations to cripple the 340B Drug Discount Program, Big Pharma is now bullying safety-net health care providers in an effort to avoid providing the required discounts.

It’s pathetic and sets a dangerous precedent if allowed to stand. This is an easy call for HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Just say no.


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