DC Protest & Media Availability, Thurs. Oct. 22nd 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
340B discount drug program, which provides drug price discounts to safety net providers that care for large numbers of uninsured and vulnerable patients, is once again under assault from the industry, despite the fact that 340B represents only 2% of all drug purchases nationwide.
Harris Poll: Only 1 in 10 Americans think pharma and the drug industry are “… honest and trustworthy.”
WASHINGTON (October 21, 2015) As part of a nationwide advocacy campaign to preserve the government’s 340B discount drug pricing program from an aggressive attack by the pharmaceutical industry and its lobbyists, advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and other groups will host a protest Thursday, October 22nd in Washington, DC outside a luncheon and Roundtable Discussion that PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) and its advocacy coalition, the ‘Alliance for Reform and Integrity’ (AIR 340B), is hosting at PhRMA headquarters in Washington. The protest will run from 11:30am to 12:30pm in front of PhRMA (950 F Street, NW, 20004) as participants arrive for the forum.
Despite the fact that 340B represents only 2% of drug purchases nationwide, the pharmaceutical industry has repeatedly tried to gut the program. The most recent effort came in mid-May of this year when drug industry lobbyists tried, surreptitiously—and unsuccessfully—to insert a last-minute amendment to the 21st Century Cures Act which would have gutted the 340B program. However, patients who obtain their medications through 340B program participants like AHF and others successfully pressed members of Congress, including Fred Upton, (R, MI, 6th District), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee; and Joe Pitts (R, PA 16th District) to block this move.
WHAT: PROTEST—AIDS advocates to protest PhRMA and the drug industry over repeated attempts to gut the 340B discount drug pricing program
WHEN: THURSDAY, Oct. 22nd 2015—11:30 am to 12:30 pm
WHERE: In front of PhRMA headquarters: 950 F Street, NW | Washington, DC 20004
WHO: 15 advocates with placards, whistles & banners
CONTACTS: Michelle Morgan, Director of National Advocacy Campaigns 202-695-0965
Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Director (323) 791-5526 cell
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA), the 340B discount drug pricing program, which was created by Congress in 1992, “…requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations/covered entities at significantly reduced prices. The 340B Program enables covered entities to stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.”
“Under the guise of ‘leadership,’ the drug industry is trying to weaken and dismantle elements of the government’s successful and lifesaving 340B discount drug program, which serves underserved communities through pharmacies run by AIDS organizations like AHF as well as other community groups,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “340B works beautifully. The only people who have a problem with it are greedy drug companies and the people who support them. And 340B does not cost the government anything: all of the discounts come from the drug companies, simply in the form of reduced profits on the sales of these drugs. As the 340B program is only two percent of all drug sales, the drug companies can easily afford this. In fact, if 340B is cut, more people will turn to the government for help. Safety net providers participating in 340B are a vital part of the healthcare delivery system which need to be reinforced not cut.”
“The 340B program is under constant assault from PhRMA and the drug industry, which will not stop until they have killed or severely handicapped this program,” said Michelle Morgan, AHF’s Director of National Advocacy Campaigns, and who is spearheading Thursday’s protest. “Unfortunately, some in Congress and the administration in general seem to be far more concerned about what pharma thinks than in looking out for safety net providers and their patients. That is why we are protesting at PhRMA—to stop drug companies’ efforts to gut a federal program that helps the neediest so they can fatten their wallets. We are also demanding that HRSA abandon its ill-conceived and unlawful ‘Mega-Guidance’ recommendations.”
PhRMA Event Will Explain PhRMA’s Interpretation of HRSA’s Proposed ‘Mega-Guidance’ for 340B
The catalyst for the Roundtable Discussion hosted by PhRMA (and the protest) was the recent release of proposed ‘Mega-Guidance’ on the 340B program issued by HRSA and which is now open for public comment. This proposed Guidance, which allies of PhRMA have called “a good start,” will severely limit the ability of safety net providers to participate in the program, and restrict the amount of care and services they can provide to vulnerable populations. The luncheon roundtable is intended to discuss PhRMA’s interpretation of this Guidance. The purpose of the protest is to provide a countervailing voice, that the program works exactly as Congress intended: it saves the federal government money, and helps protect the public health.
“The Mega-Guidance that HRSA has proposed is a solution in search of a problem,” said Laura Boudreau, Chief Counsel for Operations for AHF. “The guidance goes outside the bounds of the 340B law in a number of key respects that deeply hurt safety net providers and the patients they serve. If the guidance goes through as written, there will inevitably be legal action by safety net providers to challenge it, just the way that the drug industry has previously challenged other 340B guidance.”
The pharmaceutical industry has twice sued to show that HRSA does not have the legal authority under the original 340B legislation to create regulations with the exception of in a very few areas, an assessment that AHF agrees with. In 2007, HRSA also started down the same path of issuing guidance but later withdrew it.
Harris Poll (Dec. 2013): Only 1 in 10 Americans Thinks Pharma Is “…Honest and Trustworthy.”
And from the industry that brazenly put the word ‘Integrity’ in the name of its pharmaceutical advocacy coalition, ‘Alliance for Reform and Integrity,’ a 2013 Harris Poll revealed: “Just one in ten (Americans) say they think … pharma and drug companies (10%) … are generally honest and trustworthy.”
Since then, the industry’s reputation has taken even further hits with widespread negative public reaction to the roll out of Gilead’s $1,000 per pill Hepatitis C treatment in 2013. In addition, news last month that former hedge fund manager and current Turing Pharmaceuticals’ CEO Martin Shkreli was raising the price of the drug Daraprim, a 62-yer-old medication to treat toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill drew enormous negative media coverage, widespread public outrage and prompted calls for a government investigation. All pharma’s actions on its pricing and policies—including price-gouging like Mr. Shkreli’s—is making the issue of drug pricing and access a significant 2016 presidential campaign issue.