340B allies rally Congress to ensure Pelosi drug price plan doesn't imperil discounts

A 340B advocacy group is imploring congressional allies to ensure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug prices plan won’t prevent hospitals from getting discounts under the program.

The hospital industry-backed advocacy group 340B Health sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Sept. 25 extolling the virtues of the program. The letter comes after the release of Pelosi’s Lower Drug Costs Act, which would call for the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to select at least 25 drugs a year to negotiate for a lower price.

340B Health said the bill contains “language addressing the coordination between Medicare drug price negotiation and the 340B program.”

RELATED: GAO: 340B hospitals, outside pharmacies need more oversight

Under Pelosi's bill, the negotiated price would apply to commercial plans and to different programs in Medicare.

Currently, the legislative text says that for each year a negotiated price is applied the drug shall “not be considered a covered outpatient drug subject to an agreement under … 340B.”

340B Health emphasized to Congress that the bill shouldn’t affect program hospitals.  

“It is important that any actions by Congress to address high drug prices continue to allow 340B hospitals to purchase drugs at 340B discounted prices and access savings through the 340B program,” the group told the committee.

Energy and Commerce understands the "importance of the 340B program" and is reviewing the issue, a spokesperson told FierceHealthcare.

RELATED: 340B program may hinder access to costly drugs as hospitals exploit discounts: CRE

Under 340B, a manufacturer offers a discount to a safety-net hospital in exchange for participation in Medicaid. The program requires drug manufacturers to offer their product at the average manufacturer price reduced by at least 23% for brand-name drugs.

Top Pelosi health aide Wendell Primus has said he expects the bill to reach the House floor by the end of this month. But while the bill could make it through the House, it already has stiff opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate.

RELATED: Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies spar over cuts to 340B drug discount program

The Trump administration made a nearly 30% cut to discounts under the program in 2018 and 2019, but a federal judge ruled recently that those cuts were unlawful.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed another round of cuts in its 2020 hospital payment rule, which has not been finalized yet. Hospital groups have urged CMS to scrap the cuts because of the court ruling. Critics of the program, most notably the pharmaceutical industry, charge that the program has gotten too large and hospitals take advantage of it.