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PROFITS OVER PATIENTS: DRUG COMPANIES CRACK DOWN ON LOW-COST PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROGRAM

Contact: Amy Simmons Farber 202-309-0338

Bethesda, MD — Drug manufacturers are violating federal law at the expense of the nearly 29 million patients served by Community Health Centers, according to a new survey by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) released today. While Community Health Centers continue to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, drug manufacturers have threatened health centers’ financial stability by cutting off access to low-cost 340B drugs at contract pharmacies.

For nearly 30 years, health centers, and other safety-net providers, have relied on the 340B Drug Discount Program to serve the most vulnerable patients. Now health centers are forced to make difficult decisions that jeopardize primary care services because of actions by six drug companies – Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, United Therapeutics, Gilead, and Merck – who have restricted 340B shipments to health center contract pharmacies while raking in record profits.

The NACHC survey of nearly 300 health centers finds that the 340B program has been essential for patient health and boosted patients’ ability to stay on track with medicines. But manufacturers have made it nearly impossible for health centers to keep patients on the medications of their choice at affordable prices without creating additional transportation and access barriers. Specifically, the new data shows that health center leaders believe more than 90% of patients will be harmed if drug manufacturers continue to ramp up efforts to dismantle the 340B program.

Health center patients with diabetes, heart disease, and behavioral health needs rely on 340B program drugs more than any other patient population. Nearly half of the manufacturer restrictions impact medications that help patients manage and treat diabetes. As Congress works to address the rising insulin costs and growing mental health crisis, the 340B program helps health centers provide affordable medications and services to improve patients’ quality of life.

“The 340B program has worked well for 30 years, but the drug companies and middlemen are changing the rules by themselves to pad their profits at the expense of patients. That’s just plain wrong,” said Mike Holmes, NACHC Board Chair and CEO of Scenic Rivers Health Services in rural Minnesota. “Drug manufacturers call for transparency in the 340B program, but don’t hold their business practices to the same standard. Instead, they are raking in profits on the backs of health centers and the low-income patients they serve. By law, health centers reinvest all 340B savings back into patient care.  Unilateral actions by manufacturers and drug middlemen have removed needed resources from communities that need them the most.  We need Congress to make it clear that patients come before profits.”

Health centers are the largest primary care network in the nation. When health centers lose 340B savings, 29 million patients suffer irreversible consequences. Roughly half of health center patients are on Medicaid, over one-fifth are uninsured, over 90 percent are low-income, and almost 60 percent are racial and ethnic minorities. As pillars in their communities, health centers use 340B savings to create services and programs that address social determinants of health and close the gap on critical social services. Health centers will continue to live by their mission, and always provide care to patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Read the report and see our infographics summarizing key findings.

Watch press conference recording

On Monday, June 13, NACHC held a press conference to discuss the report’s findings. Speakers included:

Mike Holmes, NACHC Board Chair; CEO, Scenic River Health Services, MN
Kemi Ali, CEO, Henry J. Austin Health Center, Trenton, NJ
Sue Veer, President & CEO, Carolina Health Centers, Inc., Greenwood, SC

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About National Association of Community Health Centers

Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the leading national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.

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