243 House members urge HHS to stop drugmakers from blocking 340B discounts

A bipartisan group of 243 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar Sept. 14 urging him to use his authority to stop drugmakers from blocking safety-net hospitals' access to 340B discounts. 

Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., led the House members in sending the letter. 

The letter calls on Mr. Azar to stop drugmakers from refusing to offer 340B discounts on drugs dispensed through community pharmacies. 

Eli Lilly told hospitals as of Sept. 1, it will no longer give 340B discounts to hospitals that ship drugs to contract pharmacies instead of dispensing them in-house. AstraZeneca said it would do the same, effective Oct. 1. Three other drugmakers — Merck, Sanofi and Novartis — have also threatened to withhold discounts, claiming it is necessary to avoid paying duplicate discounts. 

Several healthcare groups also sent letters to Mr. Azar urging him to ensure drugmakers follow the rules laid out under the 340B drug-pricing program. 

"Protecting access to prescription drugs for underserved communities should be a top priority. Unfortunately, the big pharmaceutical companies’ recent actions to restrict 340B drug discounts could jeopardize the ability of hospitals to provide vital services to vulnerable populations," Mr.  McKinley said. "Our letter shows strong bipartisan opposition to this action, and hopefully will convince HHS to intervene."

HHS has not released a statement on the issue. Becker's has reached out to HHS for comment and will update this story accordingly. 

A spokesperson for the Health Resources and Services Administration told Becker's the agency is "considering whether manufacturer policies, including Lilly’s, violate the 340B statute and whether sanctions may apply."

"We believe that manufacturers that refuse to honor contract pharmacy orders could significantly limit access to 340B-discounted drugs for many underserved and vulnerable populations who may be located in geographically isolated areas and rely on contract pharmacies as a critical point of access for obtaining their prescriptions. To this end, HRSA continues to strongly encourage all manufacturers to sell 340B priced drugs to covered entities directly and through contract pharmacy arrangements," the spokesperson added. 

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