Spanberger urges feds to penalize drug companies and crack down on illegal price gouging | Local News

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is leading a six-member House campaign to fight prescription drug hikes that are hurting health care providers and tens of millions of their patients, especially in rural communities.

Writing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra about what they described as a series of reckless decisions by pharmaceutical manufacturers, lawmakers urged the Biden administration to act immediately against the businesses that do not comply with federal law.

Spanberger, a Democrat representing Central Virginia’s 7th congressional district, called on HHS to protect rural providers’ access to the discounted drugs they need to keep patients healthy and safe.

Lawmakers called on the Cabinet Department to protect the 340B drug pricing program, enacted by Congress in 1992 with bipartisan support.

Overseen by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the program requires drugmakers to discount their drugs to rural health and safety service providers in exchange for Medicaid coverage.

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“More and more pharmaceutical companies have begun to deliberately deny 340B pricing to safety net providers who serve the most vulnerable patient populations in our communities,” Spanberger and colleagues wrote at Becerra. “HHS has the authority to take enforcement action that could deter these manufacturers … from engaging in this illegal activity.”

Spanberger’s letter was also signed by Reps. David B. McKinley (RW.Va.), Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Dusty Johnson (RS.D.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), and John Katko (RN.Y.).

The 340B drug pricing program has set a record in reducing drug costs for Virginia patients who live in underserved communities, are poor, or have serious chronic illnesses.

But in recent years, some manufacturers have stopped honoring $340 billion in rebates for drugs dispensed by pharmacies that contract with suppliers. This has dramatically increased the price of these drugs for vulnerable patients and providers, Spanberger’s office said Tuesday.

Last year, after a bipartisan campaign led by Spanberger, HHS and the Health Resources and Services Administration sent warning letters to pharmaceutical manufacturers who refused to provide discounted prescription drugs.

But after the warnings, those companies made no effort to comply with their legal obligations, Spanberger’s office said. And HHS has not followed through with any enforcement action.

“This situation jeopardizes the integrity of the entire program and threatens the availability of affordable medicines throughout rural America,” the congresswoman’s office said.

Congress, the previous administration, the Biden administration and thousands of 340B-covered safety net providers across the country opposed the companies’ actions, Spanberger’s office said.

Health care providers can’t wait any longer for HHS to act, the lawmakers wrote to HHS.

Many 340B suppliers are grappling with severe financial losses and staffing issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers said, adding, “They can’t afford to pay higher upfront prices for medicines that their patients need.

Virginia and United States health care providers and patient advocacy groups have endorsed Spanberger’s efforts to protect the vulnerable and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable.

“Given efforts by drugmakers to limit $340 billion in rebates to contract pharmacies, we appreciate Rep. Spanberger’s efforts to ensure that safety net providers like UVA Health continue to receive reduced prices from drugmakers. drug manufacturers,” said Wendy Horton, Ph.D. and CEO. from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. “The savings we realize from reduced drug expenses through the 340B drug pricing program are critical to supporting our mission to serve those who need us most.”

Paula Tomko, CEO of Central Virginia Health Services, said the 340B program has been “a lifeline” in helping their uninsured and underinsured patients get discounted medications for high blood pressure, diabetes or HIV/AIDS.

“Unfortunately, in recent years, big pharma has unilaterally and illegally decided to raise the prices they charge for their drugs to providers working in underserved communities,” Tomko said. “It is disappointing that big pharma – many of which have reported excellent financial years – are dramatically raising the prices of drugs needed by safety net providers…in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Stacey Hughes, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, attacked the “pernicious tactics” of drugmakers and thanked Spanberger and her colleagues for addressing the issue.

The program’s discounted drugs help patients get childhood screenings, treatment for substance use disorders, childhood screenings and other lifesaving care, said Beth O’Connor, executive director of the Virginia Rural Health Association.

“If we are to have any hope of ending the HIV epidemic this decade, we must have a properly funded HIV safety net,” said Jesse Milan, President of AIDS United. “The 340B program is an essential pillar of this safety net.”

With pharmaceutical companies overpricing their drugs and dwindling resources for HIV organizations, “the lives of people living with HIV and vulnerable to HIV are at stake,” Milan said.

“We are extremely grateful to these six members of Congress for leading the fight to protect the 340B safety net. We need them now more than ever as we continue to fight the pandemic on the front lines,” said Shannon Stephenson , CEO of Cempa Community Care in Tennessee and President of Ryan White Clinics.

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