After multiple delays, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) has finally launched an online tool that 340B hospitals can use to determine the maximum that pharmaceutical companies can charge for drugs.
HRSA’s new pricing site went live on Monday morning and is one of the elements mandated in the long-delayed final rule for the 340B drug discount program. That rule, which took effect on Jan. 1, also adds monetary penalties for drug companies that overcharge hospitals in the program.
The final rule was first issued in January 2017 and was delayed five times by the Trump administration before going into effect this year. HRSA finally rolled out the rule as it determined the provisions would not interfere with the administration’s broader drug pricing policy.
Provider groups and 340B advocates cheered the website’s launch. Maureen Testoni, CEO of 340B health, a group that represents more than 1,300 providers participating in the program, said in a statement that the new tool’s release “marks a positive milestone in the history of the 340B program.”
“Today’s launch of a secure website listing the maximum allowable prices for all 340B covered drugs brings a healthy dose of sunshine into a marketplace that has, for far too long, been a black box,” Testoni said. “Until today, hospitals, clinics and health centers participating in 340B had no way to be sure they were paying the correct amount for the drugs they purchase.”
340B Health was joined by the American Hospital Association (AHA), America’s Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges on a lawsuit filed in September with the goal of pushing HRSA to implement the rule.
Tom Nickels, executive vice president at AHA, said in a statement that the group was “pleased” that its lawsuit led to the site’s launch.
“As prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket, the 340B program is as crucial as ever in helping hospitals provide access to healthcare services for patients in vulnerable communities,” Nickels said.
Amid the drug price debate, the 340B program has been under the microscope. The program has enjoyed traditionally bipartisan support, but intense lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry has led to criticism that it has grown too large.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also slashed the program’s payment rate in 2017, a shift in a longstanding Medicare policy that culled $1.6 billion in payments from the program. Hospital groups are currently battling the payment changes in court.