The following article was originally posted on The Parkersburg News and Sentinel’s website, https://www.newsandsentinel.com, on July 13, 2021.
Most patients are likely unaware of the ins and outs of the 340B drug pricing program, which requires pharmaceutical companies to provide drugs at a discount for certain hospitals and clinics serving the neediest of patients. But in areas such as rural Appalachia, that kind of program can mean the difference between life and death for some.
Still those pharmaceutical companies, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers will find ways to make as much money as possible, even if it means exploiting loopholes in programs like 340B. Lawmakers will have to fight back, and Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., have introduced a way for them to do that.
Preserving Rules Ordered for the Entities Covered Through (PROTECT) 340B would stop the big guys from “pick-pocketing,” as Spanberger put it, the clinics and hospital systems that provide lower-cost prescription drugs for those who need it, but can’t pay top dollar.
“The 340B drug pricing program is a vital part of many rural and underserved areas. Without it, many providers would not be able to provide critical services and low-cost medicine to the communities they serve,” McKinley said. “Yet, actions taken by big pharmaceutical companies and middlemen have jeopardized the ability of clinics and hospitals to provide vital services. Our bipartisan bill will hold pharmaceutical companies accountable and ensure access to affordable medicine.”
Rural and underserved. Those words shouldn’t be a flashing light to those looking for populations to exploit for profit, but they are.
“This bill addresses the pick-pocketing issue federally, and it also regulates Medicare Advantage and Part D plans,” said Judy Raveaux, CEO of CHANGE, Inc. “If the bill is passed, it would strongly complement the state-level pick-pocketing and other 340B covered entity protections already in place in West Virginia that community health centers have fought for during the last five years.”
We might have to pick the pharmaceutical, insurance and PBM companies out of a few of the pockets of lawmakers who will decide the fate of this bill, first. But surely lawmakers understand this one is a no-brainer, if we are to be certain poor, rural, and generationally underserved patients get the care they need.