The Colorectal Cancer Alliance is the oldest and largest patient advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention of and a cure for colorectal cancer. As part of our efforts, the Alliance offers a helpline with trained navigators to provide support for families facing this devastating disease. Not surprisingly, the number one reason patients contact the helpline is for assistance in dealing with the cost of their treatment. In fact, a cancer diagnosis doubles the chance that a family will need to declare bankruptcy.
To provide some help for low income families with the cost of prescription drugs, in 1992 Congress created the 340B Drug Discount Program; it requires drug manufacturers to provide drugs to eligible hospitals at dramatically lower prices. The intent was to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible and be able to serve more patients at lower cost.
Section 340B, if used properly, goes a long way toward increasing access for the uninsured and low-income patients it was originally intended to serve. Unfortunately today it has gone off the rails and many large hospitals have taken advantage of their status as a 340B hospital; instead of getting affordable drugs into the hands of vulnerable patients, they are using 340B just to pad their bottom lines. There have been countless studies and media stories showing how 340B hospitals, which are intended to use the savings generated through their participation in the 340B program to provide charity care for their local communities, have in fact decreased the rate of charity care they provide due to a lack in federal oversight.
The Alliance has advocated for some time that Congress take bipartisan action and require appropriate federal oversight to make sure the program is adhering to the original intent of helping low-income patients. The Alliance supports legislation introduced by Representatives Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Scott Peters (D-CA) in the House and by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in the Senate that will work to reform the 340B drug discount program. Addressing the many problems of today’s 340B program, this legislation will work to increase oversight of the federal drug discount program and freeze the number of DSH hospitals participating and abusing the it, while also protecting the rural hospitals that have been using the program properly.
“The Alliance has recognized the need for changes to the 340B program and we applaud these Congressional leaders’ legislation for serving as an important next step towards making this a reality,” noted Colorectal Cancer Alliance CEO Michael Sapienza. “This legislation will empower HRSA and the federal government to properly oversee the program and ensure that good actors, like our invaluable rural hospitals, continue to provide access to treatment and medicine for our country’s most vulnerable patients.”