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Life-Saving Federal HIV Drug Pricing Program Is Under Attack


A life-saving HIV drug program—that millions of Americans have depended on for some 25 years—is currently under attack by members of Congress.

Enacted as part of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, the 340B Drug Pricing Program helped provide medication for those who never had a chance of being able to afford it.

The 340B Discount Drug Program has allowed qualifying hospitals and safety net providers to buy prescription drugs from drug-makers at discounted prices, thereby enabling critical services, some not reimbursed by any insurance providers. Lawmakers and federal officials, with deep pockets, have fought over the overall scope and reach of the program.

U.S. Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego and U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. of Indiana introduced H.R. 4710, federal legislation that would impose a moratorium on certain hospitals from applying for the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

It’s being called the 340B PAUSE Act, and attacks already-vulnerable HIV and AIDS patients with low incomes. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) sounded the alarm with the crystal clear message that this is a horrific piece of legislation that HIV and AIDS activists absolutely need to keep their eyes on.

“The time is now for all champions of preserving a health care safety net to tell the U.S. Congress to reject the pharmaceutical industry’s plot to blow up the 340B Discount Drug Pricing Program,” Michael Weinstein, AHF President stated in a press release. “This legislation is the first step to dismantle the 340B program, inspired by the pharmaceutical industry,” continued Weinstein. “It’s the first swing of a wrecking ball designed to tear down 340B, which supports the health care safety net for millions of Americans.”

A press conference held on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 10:30am in the Pointe Room at the Hotel del Coronado will cover the proposed legislation. It’s happening at the 340B Coalition Winter Conference, “a meeting at which various organizations come to share best practices about how to maximize the benefits to the 340B Program.” The conferences lasts through Feb. 23. At the press conference, San Diego resident Terry Summers will give his first-hand account of how he sat in Congressman Scott Peters’ Washington D.C. office as part of AIDS Watch. “You made a promise to us that you would protect programs like 340B,” said Summer, addressing Rep. Peters personally.

Who could the proposed moratorium affect?

AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) are categorically eligible for the 340B Pricing Program. Ryan White Part A and B Clinics, Ryan White Part C Early Intervention Services grantees, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Title X Family Planning Clinics, Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinics and Disproportionate Share Hospitals are also eligible. “Smaller safety net clinics, like AHF’s, are concerned with any attempt to alter the rules or guidelines, because those rules would harm Ryan White HIV clinics’ ability to treat those who cannot pay.” added Weinstein.

More attacks on the 340B Discount Drug Pricing Program from members of Congress are underway and will continue to unfold in the coming months. These attacks could reduce the number of sites eligible for the discounts or add new requirements.

Anyone who has been through HIV and AIDS care insurance, payments and assistance knows how confusing the current process already is. The greed of pharmaceutical companies knows no bounds, especially considering that 340B accounts for 2.8 percent of the respective 2.8 percent of the drug companies’ market share in the U.S.drug companies’ market share in the U.S.

The 340B Discount Drug Pricing Program costs taxpayers and the government nothing. Drug-makers agree to offer 340B discounts to a select group of eligible providers, and that’s the condition for being able to sell drugs to Medicaid. 340B also has a minimal impact on the drug-makers’ bottom line. These are the reasons, AHF says, that they’re launching the “Let it B” campaign to raise awareness about just what’s at stake. The Let it B campaign makes it simple to email or call a representative about the importance of 340B. Take the time to send out an email or make a call.

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Benjamin M. Adams