31 Mar Things Get Real: 340B Drug Discount Program Is Essential
By 340B Matters
Please take a moment to remember two valiant nurses who died last week from COVID-19: Kious Kelly at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Araeli Buendia Ilagen at Jackson Health System in Miami. We extend our deepest condolences to their families for their loss, and we remain ever-grateful for their dedicated service and sacrifice to provide care to those in need.
Across America, health professionals are working around the clock in crisis conditions to treat thousands of incoming patients suffering from the coronavirus and its attendant pneumonia. Many of these professionals work in hospitals that receive critical financial support from the 340B drug discount program. Both Kious and Araeli worked at 340B hospitals that treat high numbers of indigent and uninsured people.
While the 340B drug discount program doesn’t receive much fanfare, it’s vitally important in helping safety-net hospitals and clinics stretch scarce resources – precisely in times such as these. While Big Pharma continues to fund a high-priced effort to eliminate 340B drug discounts so it can generate abnormally larger profits, the savings on medications received by providers helps make a big difference now, during a national emergency.
The Health Resources and Services Agency, which oversees the 340B program, has moved quickly to make the program more flexible during the crisis. In certain cases it is allowing providers to use group purchase orders to obtain private-label medications. The agency is also allowing telehealth consultations more broadly.
We applaud these moves but more should be done. With the huge influx of patients, it is likely that some hospitals will find themselves above the eligibility cutoff for the 340B program. In these cases we recommend temporary flexibility on the disproportionate share hospital percentage that serves as the threshold. We also advise an expansion of the April 1-15 340B enrollment period.
We are entering the darkest days of the pandemic. We urge everyone to heed the advice of public health experts to practice social distancing and stay home. Stay safe and healthy.
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