California Patient Advocates Call on Congress to Reform 340B Drug Discount Program

Posted by Kassy Perry

IFAA Requests Congressional Oversight of Federal 340B Program Necessary to Ensure its Sustainability

MONROVIA, Calif. (April 27, 2015 08:00 AM) – In an effort to strengthen the 340B federal drug discount program to ensure it supports access to outpatient prescription medications for uninsured or indigent patients, leading California patient advocacy organizations representing chronic illnesses including autoimmune arthritis, hepatitis C and lung cancer have called on Congress to intervene.

In a joint letter to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23) and Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-29), patient advocates concerned about the abuses occurring in the 340B program, stated:

“By most accounts, the 340B program’s scale has far exceeded its original intent. Continued oversight of the 340B program is needed to ensure it is consistent with its statutory promise; there has only been one Congressional hearing in over twenty years despite the program’s rapid growth. Improved transparency of the 340B program will help advance the program’s goals and ensure that resources are being directly used to reduce medicine costs for the patients that truly need it.”

Congress created the 340B program in 1992 to help uninsured, indigent patients gain better access to prescription medicines. To help achieve this goal, the program requires the pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide discounts on outpatient prescription medicines to entities that serve high numbers of qualified patients. Over the years, however, 340B has expanded beyond the original intent of the program, and the number of participating entities has increased considerably. Sadly, 75 percent of 340B hospitals in California have charity care rates below the 3.3 percent national average.

A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs, shows the number of 340B providers nearly doubled from 2001 to 2011 but little benefits are being passed onto the patient. The continued scrutiny over how providers use the 340B savings and revenue along with the program’s expansion has led to calls to reevaluate the program. In their review of the program in 2011, the Government Accountability Office concluded that federal oversight of the 340B program was inadequate to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with program requirements. The letter continues to read:

“The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the federal agency charged in providing oversight for the 340B program has failed in its watch. Through a variety of overlooked regulatory and statutory loopholes, patients are now second in line to profits. There is no guarantee those dollars are making their way back to the needy individuals who could desperately use the help.”

“We encourage Congress to continue its oversight of 340B and support realigning the valuable 340B program with its original goals. We appreciate the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee’s recent oversight hearing held in March and ask they continue their dialogue about reforming and strengthening the program to ensure it directly supports access to outpatient prescription medicines for uninsured or indigent patients like the ones we serve,” stated Tiffany Westrich, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis (IFAA).

The letter was signed by the International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, Bay Area Women’s Health Advocacy Council, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, California Chronic Care Coalition, California Hepatitis C Task Force, California Senior Advocates League and the National Association of Hepatitis C Task Forces.

About International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis

The International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis (IFAA) was established in 2010 after its founder, Tiffany Westrich, was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She united with other autoimmune arthritis patients who were also current or former business executives and educators, creating the first global nonprofit for these diseases. IFAA is committed to eliminating the adversity caused by autoimmune arthritis diseases by conducting patient-led research, providing wellness education and uniting resources that will raise global awareness and improve the quality of life for those affected by these diseases. For more information visit www.ifautoimmunearthritis.org.

Click here to view a copy of letter to Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Cardenas

Click here to view 340B resource documents