Get 340B back on track
September 21. 2017 6:30PM
To the Editor: Sometimes, well-intended government programs get off track. In 1992 Congress created the 340B Drug Discount Program to help vulnerable patients get the medications they need.
Through 340B, outpatient prescription drugs are made available to safety-net clinics and qualifying hospitals at a significant discount. The premise was that 340B would help people obtain necessary medications and help safety-net providers care for them.
But now, 25 years later, loopholes and a lack of oversight have allowed the program to grow unchecked. Many hospitals pocket profits made from 340B savings, and don’t use the savings for charity care in their communities. The scale is not insignificant. In 2016, sales at the 340B discounted prices were $16 billion. Growth has been steadily increasing in recent years, despite a declining number of uninsured patients.
There are clear opportunities for reform to get 340B back on track. Sen. Maggie Hassan should continue to fight for the 340B program, and call for increased resources for oversight, clarified patient and covered entity definitions, and further guidance on contract pharmacy arrangements.
Government can sometimes get it right, and Senator Hassan and her colleagues have the opportunity to improve 340B and truly increase access to affordable prescriptions. I thank her.
KRISTI ST. LAURENT