What’s at stake in ef­fort to di­min­ish 340B pro­gram

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Bob Henkel

Ev­ery day mil­lions more pa­tients who should take pre­scrip­tion drugs do not be­cause of the high cost. Too many peo­ple—par­tic­u­larly those most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety—are forced to choose be­tween life’s ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties—food, shel­ter, cloth­ing— and their health be­cause they can­not af­ford their pre­scribed med­i­ca­tions.

At As­cen­sion Health, the na­tion’s largest not-for-profit health sys­tem, we’re do­ing our part to make sure pa­tients in need don’t have to make choices. It’s pretty straight­for­ward: Di­a­bet­ics should have ac­cess to in­sulin; can­cer pa­tients should have ac­cess to chemo­ther­apy; those suf­fer­ing from chronic high blood pres­sure should have ac­cess to medicines to pre­vent sud­den car­diac ar­rest, strokes and aneurysms. This is part of our mis­sion.

But we can­not do it alone. We need the help of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try to en­sure the poor and vul­ner­a­ble can ac­cess the med­i­ca­tions they need. Since 1992, this has been pos­si­ble be­cause of the 340B drug-pric­ing pro­gram, which re­quires drug man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­vide re­duced- cost drugs to safety net hos­pi­tals that treat a large num­ber of unin­sured and poor pa­tients.

Ac­cord­ing to the Health Re­sources and Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which reg­u­lates 340B, pro­gram drugs amount to only 2% of all medicines pur­chased in the U.S. But be­cause drug com­pa­nies have be­come less will­ing to share their prof­its with those in need, ac­cess to the pro­gram is at risk.

At As­cen­sion, 41 of our hos­pi­tals par­tic­i­pate in 340B—of th­ese, 23 are crit­i­cal-ac­cess and 11 are dis­pro­por­tion­ate-share fa­cil­i­ties. Par­tic­i­pa­tion from th­ese hos­pi­tals in 340B al­lowed us to save $97 mil­lion on drugs last year, which we rein­vested in pro­grams that treat the poor and vul­ner­a­ble.

We know that 340B makes an im­pact in our par­tic­i­pat­ing hos­pi­tals. The pro­gram cuts costs for a three-month sup­ply of a choles­terol-low­er­ing drug from $700 to just $60. A 15-day sup­ply of an in­jectable form of in­sulin drops from over $400 to $16.

The bot­tom line: 340B is a vi­tal, suc­cess­ful pro­gram that al­lows hos­pi­tals to help un­der­served pa­tients with the high cost of drugs, and sus­tains med­i­cal ser­vices direly needed within the com­mu­nity. Any ef­forts to di­min­ish 340B will only leave our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens with less ac­cess to the med­i­ca­tion and the qual­ity health­care they desperately need.

Bob Henkel is CEO of As­cen­sion Health.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.