Date: December 15, 2020
Contact: Leslie Wolcott
Raleigh: In a joint letter sent yesterday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 27 other state Attorneys General urged the agency to protect patients from drug manufacturers’ unlawful refusal to provide required discounts on life-saving medications to community health centers and other safety net providers.
“While our health care heroes are on the frontlines of this pandemic, drug companies are taking aim at a program that makes medications affordable for patients and provides much-needed financial savings to community health centers,” said Chris Shank, CEO and President of the North Carolina Community Health Center Association.
The 340B Drug Discount Program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide discounted outpatient medications to community health centers, allowing them to stretch scarce federal resources to care for more North Carolinians and offer affordable medications to vulnerable patients at no cost to taxpayers. North Carolina’s community health centers leverage the pharmacies they own and operate as well as partnerships with other community-based pharmacies, called contract pharmacies, to make medications accessible to patients. “North Carolina’s 42 community health center organizations could not have served 631,000 patients—43% of whom were uninsured—in 2019 if it were not for the 340B program,” Shank added.
However, in the past few months, a growing list of drug manufacturers have unilaterally cut off the legally required 340B discounts to these contract pharmacies, jeopardizing patients’ access & causing financial losses for these nonprofit safety net providers—in the middle of a public health crisis. “By law and by mission, community health centers reinvest every penny of 340B savings into activities that expand health care access for their medically underserved patients,” said Shank. “If these restrictions continue, patients in underserved communities will suffer further as health centers would be forced to reduce their discount pharmacy programs, reduce health center staff and hours, and even scale back other services they offer to patients.”
In a press release from his office, Attorney General Stein said, “It’s wrong for drug companies to break the rules and make it harder for North Carolinians to afford the medications they need to stay healthy, especially while we face the added health and economic burdens of this pandemic.” “I urge HHS to take action immediately so people can continue to get the health care they need,” said Stein.
On behalf of the state’s community health centers and the communities they serve, the North Carolina Community Health Center Association thanks Attorney General Stein for his leadership.