December 13, 2017—Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard a powerful defense of the 340B drug discount program yesterday at a hearing on the new National Academies of Sciences (NAS) report on why medicines cost so much and what can be done about it.
The committee’s senior Democratic member, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), noted that “the 340B program…supports hospitals and clinics serving the very communities that cannot afford the care they need to stay healthy.” Senator Murray noted, however, that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) “is cutting the reimbursement for drugs purchased by most 340B hospitals by nearly 30 percent starting in January.” She added, the cuts “will result in less funding for safety-net providers to provide critical services to low-income and vulnerable patients” and called the planned cut “disappointing.”
Murray’s comments were echoed by David Mitchell, the President and Founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, who served on the ad-hoc NAS committee that wrote the drug pricing report. When asked by Murray “is there any evidence that restrictions on the 340B program would actually result in lower drug prices?” Mitchell responded:
“(F)rom the patient perspective, I don’t understand the focus on 340B precisely because of what you just referenced. The (340B) rebates amount to 1.3 percent of our total drug spend. If there are issues in the 340B program, and it needs to be tightened up in terms of its execution so it can still deliver the result Congress intended when it enacted it, that seems to me to be the right step forward that protects those hospitals who provide for our neediest, but it doesn’t try to use 340B as a way to repair our drug pricing problems because there’s not enough money there to do that.”