Health centers push back against big pharma tactics / Public Information Service

Colorado’s Community Health Centers are joining a national effort to push back against recent moves by Big Pharma that are making it harder to get discounted drugs to people living in extreme poverty.

Donald Moore, executive director of the Pueblo Community Health Center, said a federal program known as 340B has helped more of Pueblo’s Latino community, which has much higher rates of chronic disease and more barriers to accessing primary health care.

“We totally meet the purpose of the legislation,” Moore explained. “Which is maximizing our public funding to reach those most in need, which in our case includes minority populations.”

Over the past two years, drugmakers and third-party prescription drug benefit managers have erected roadblocks to the 340B program, according to a new report calling on Congress to add new protections. Industry has claimed discounted drugs are being diverted to non-eligible patients under 340B, or the savings are not being used to expand access.

Moore noted that the law provides a dispute resolution process to determine if health centers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. But drug companies and benefit managers are acting unilaterally, adding restrictions and new rules limiting access to discounted drugs at community health centers and their contracted pharmacies.

“They tried to reduce that,” Moore argued. “And keep more money in their pockets, [rather] than allowing those savings to trickle down to safety net providers like community health centers to ensure people have access to the medicines that are important for good patient outcomes.

The report found that 92% of the country’s 1,400 health centers are using the $340 billion savings to increase access for low-income and/or rural patients. Moore pointed to a new clinic, which has added 300 to 400 new patients each month since it opened in January, and six school clinics, all made possible in part by savings below 340B.

“These clinics are an important access point for teens and young adults. But they’re not operating cost-effectively. And we’re using savings from the 340B program to ensure these access points can stay open.”

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Maria J. Book