UCB latest drugmaker to restrict 340B access to contract pharmacies

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UCB Inc. became the ninth drugmaker to cut off sales of 340B-discounted products to contract pharmacies. (UCB)

UCB became the latest pharmaceutical manufacturer to restrict selling products discounted under the 340B program to contract pharmacies despite ongoing efforts by the federal government to fine other companies that have made similar moves.

UCB sent a message Monday to 340B-covered entities notifying them of the move, which goes into effect Dec. 13 and covers all the company’s products. The decision comes as the federal government and six other drugmakers are battling in court over the ability to cut off access to contract pharmacies, which are third parties that dispense 340B drugs on the covered entity’s behalf.

340B advocates blasted the move by UCB, which is the ninth drugmaker to cut off access.

“UCB is ignoring all these clear mandates by imposing an unlawful policy that will serve only to hurt patients at safety-net hospitals and boost the company’s revenues,” said Maureen Testoni, president and CEO of 340B Health. “This harmful drug company behavior must stop.”

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A letter sent to the 340B covered entities said providers without an in-house pharmacy can designate one contract pharmacy to dispense 340B products.

UCB’s decision shows drugmakers are not deterred by federal action against such moves.

Manufacturers agree to participate in the 340B drug discount program and offer discounts to safety net providers in exchange for participation in Medicare and Medicaid. But pharma companies have charged that the number of contract pharmacies has gotten too large and the discounts aren’t filtering down to patients, as safety net providers counter that the discounts are vital to maintain operations.

The lack of benefits to patients was the reason UCB cited in a statement given to Fierce Healthcare. 

"We believe covered entities and their patients — not large, for-profit contract pharmacies — should receive the benefit of discounted medicines prescribed through the 340B program," the company said.

 

A collection of seven drugmakers started cutting off access to contract pharmacies in summer 2020.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has warned the seven drug companies—Eli Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, Sanofi, United Therapeutics, AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk—for violating the 340B statute. HRSA announced back in September it will ask the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General to fine six of the drugmakers.

But the drug companies sued in federal court, arguing the restrictions don’t violate federal law.

A federal judge ruled in one of the lawsuits that companies can’t cut off sales to contract pharmacies, while a separate ruling found the manufacturers don’t have to provide discounts.