Ted Slafsky, Dr. Lisa Scholz: Drug program healthy

April 11, 2013 

Drug program healthy

While we appreciate and share your newspaper’s commitment to affordable pharmaceutical care, your recent reporting and commentary on the 340B drug discount program has been off the mark.

Your April 5 editorial “Side effects” stated that 340B hospitals should be held accountable for “how their savings on drugs translates directly into savings for patients” rather than how money saved “helps indigent care overall.”

The purpose of 340B, from day one, has been to enable safety-net health care providers to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services” Don’t take our word for it. Congress has said so many times over. So has its watchdog, the Government Accountability Office. So, too, have the Department of Health and Human Services and its watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General.

Both your editorial and April 3 article “Hospitals profit from discount drugs” question why 340B hospitals can use drugs purchased at a discounted price for commercially insured patients. These hospitals can do so because Congress intended it. If hospitals could not use 340B-discounted drugs for commercially insured patients, 340B savings would be so meager that there would be no incentive to enroll.

The program was not created to subsidize insurance companies. In its most simple terms, it requires pharmaceutical companies with profits in the billions to give their best prices to the hospitals and other health care providers that the poor, the uninsured and the underinsured turn to when private cancer centers and other for-profit providers say to them, “Sorry, but you’re not my problem. Go somewhere else.”

Our organization, Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access, is committed to ensuring that the 340B program functions with integrity. Like you, we commend Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) for his efforts to ensure that 340B is working as intended. We also applaud HHS for the steps it has taken to increase program oversight, including conducting nearly 100 audits of 340B providers since last year. Your editorial and April 2 article fail to mention these audits and HRSA’s plans to conduct hundreds more.

It was wrong and frankly demeaning for you to suggest that safety-net hospitals treat vulnerable patients “as just cogs,” and that they are more concerned about profits than they are about the poor.

Ted Slafsky

President and CEO, Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access

Vienna, Va.

Dr. Lisa Scholz, Pharm. D.,

Chief operating officer and chief pharmacy officer, Safety Net Hospitals

Arlington, Va.

The length limit was waived to allow for an extended response to the editorial.

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