With the election behind us, I’m glad that our elected leaders can stop focusing on getting elected and start focusing on policy that effects the lives of everyday Americans. Earlier this year, Congressman Tom O’Halleran, along with several of his colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary Azar of Health and Human Services regarding the 340b program. For those who don’t know, the 340b program allows for many uninsured and low-income patients to receive their prescription medications at discounted prices through health care organizations such as community health centers and children’s hospitals. As someone who owns a Phoenix pharmacy and is part of the national group Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, I’m glad that Rep. O’Halleran has this issue on his radar. I’m concerned though, that his focus is misguided. The letter references restrictions some pharmaceutical companies have put on to eligible 340b entities, but importantly, it does not note that this comes after years of many pharmacy benefit managers taking advantage of the 340b program and not passing savings onto the patient, as was the original intent of the 340b program.
This boils down to a fight between two large industries that I feel can be solved with 3 simple words: Keep and Correct. The 340b program, while mismanaged right now, was created to help the underserved and financially needy. It benefited small organizations like Ryan White clinics and children’s facilities. The program should be kept, and discounted medication SHOULD be available to those who need it the most. But in order to keep the program, it must be corrected. Fixing the program so that pharmacy middlemen aren’t using it to pad their bottom line. There are bad actors in every major government program, and they would be easy to spot in the 340b program if leaders like Rep. O’Halleran focused on making the program as transparent as possible.
I know that Rep. O’Halleran’s district covers many rural areas, where populations are very much underserved. I also know that he has done tremendous work when it comes to working with our state’s community health centers and tribal communities to have their voice heard in Washington. 340b is an important program for the population it serves, and it must be kept in order for it to continue helping. But fixing it must come first.
Former President of Pharmacists United for Truth & Transparency