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    340B program works as intended

    Congressional critics who claim the 340B program includes too many hospitals, too many patients and too many drugs are off point and out of touch.

    The 340B program is working just as Congress intended, helping hospitals stretch tight budgets to provide more and better patient care, said Ted Slafsky, MPP, president and chief executive officer of Safety Net Hospitals for Pharmaceutical Access.

    “The 340B program strengthens the healthcare safety net, allowing vulnerable patients to access medicines and health care services they need to stay out of the hospital,” he explained. “Without the 340B program, many safety net hospitals would have to limit services or close their pharmacy doors.”

    SNHPA released a report on the impact of the 340B program earlier this week. Details are at www.340BFacts.com.

    The 340B program, created in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide discounts on drugs sold to hospitals and other facilities that treat a disproportionate share of low-income and vulnerable patients. Discounted purchases under 340B account for about 2% of the annual $325 billion Rx drug spend.

    About a third of U.S. hospitals participate in the 340B program, said Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, formerly the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

    “[The] 340B [program] is not about drug discounts for disadvantaged patients,” he said. “It is about helping hospitals stretch scarce resources to cover more and better care for their patients. Discounted drug purchases allow hospitals to devote more resources to care for the neediest, most vulnerable patients.”

    Republican and Democratic administrations and congresses have consistently voted to expand the 340B program over the past 20 years, Slafsky said. The latest expansion, part of the Affordable Care Act, will help hospitals provide care for the estimated 31 million individuals who will still be without health coverage when the act takes effect in 2014. That is about the same number of uninsured the original 340B act was designed to help in 1992.

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