October 16, 2020 – Dan Hargrave was struggling to breathe, and he and his physicians initially were not sure why. He had asthma as a child, but his doctors were not confident this was the cause. Eventually, Dan was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He did not know it at the time, but the 340B drug pricing program would be a key element of how he would come to manage his condition.
According to the American Lung Association, more than 16 million Americans are living with COPD, and before COVID-19 it was the third-leading cause of death. The good news for Dan was that with proper medication to help relax muscles in his respiratory tract, he would be able to breathe easier and have a much-improved quality of life. The challenge was the cost. Dan is on a limited income, and he struggled to afford his COPD medication on top of the 10 other medications he had been prescribed to help manage his health. That is when a MetroHealth pharmacy technician in Cleveland introduced Dan to the 340B program.
“The pharmacy tech thought she could save me some money through the 340B program that I had never heard of,” Dan said. “When I found out about the 340B program, I was thrilled because the program saves me, rounded up to $50 per month, $600 per year.”
Dan’s story is the newest patient story in our Faces of 340B series, but it is far from the only one. MetroHealth and many other safety-net hospitals throughout the U.S. use 340B savings to provide direct assistance to patients with low incomes so they can afford vital medications, including insulin and chemotherapy. Our research has found that 75% of 340B hospitals have used program savings to improve medication adherence, because high drug costs can serve as a barrier to patients sticking with their prescription drug regimens.
Tough Financial Decisions for Patients
Dan knows firsthand the beneficial effects that lowered out-of-pocket drug costs can have on a patient’s health. He says that with his improved access to his COPD medication, he breathes easier, the disease is under control, and he can avoid needing to visit the emergency department. In addition, he no longer needs to make painfully difficult health choices.
“If the 340B program was not available to me, I wouldn’t be able to afford all my medications every single month,” Dan said. “It becomes a question of: Do I skip my heart meds to take my breathing meds, and if my heart’s not functioning right, then are the breathing meds as important?”
Many Americans can relate. About a quarter of Americans report struggling to afford prescription medications, and about 30% say that they are skipping medications due to cost. This is a particular problem for patients with low incomes, who have chronic health challenges, and who are prescribed at least four medications.
Dan has many friends who are juggling the ability to afford medications with the need to put food on the table. Many of them had not heard of 340B before, but that is changing. Dan has been sharing with his friends the importance of the program and describing how “340B gets you a lot closer to being able to do everything.”
Check out Dan’s profile at our Faces of 340B website.