Health centers push back against big pharma tactics

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published by Colorado News Connection public news service and was shared via AP StoryShare. It was written by Eric Galatas, a Public Information Service writer. Galatas covers topics such as climate, environment, and media for the Colorado Public News Service.

By Eric Galatas

Colorado News Connection public news service

Colorado’s Community Health Centers are joining a national effort to push back on recent Big Pharma moves that are making it harder to get discounted drugs to people living in extreme poverty. Donald Moore, CEO of the Pueblo Community Health Center, said a federal program known as 340B has helped more of Pueblo’s Latino community, which experiences much higher rates of chronic disease and more barriers to accessing primary health care .

“We fully fulfill the purpose of the legislation”, Moore explained. “Which is to extend our public funding as far as it can go to reach those most in need, which in our case includes minority populations.”

Over the past two years, drugmakers and third-party prescription drug benefit managers have been erecting roadblocks to the 340B program, according to a new report calling on Congress to add new protections. Industry has claimed discounted drugs are being diverted to non-eligible patients under 340B, or the savings are not being used to expand access.

Moore noted that the law provides a dispute resolution process to determine if health centers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. But drug companies and benefit managers are acting unilaterally, adding restrictions and new rules limiting access to discounted drugs at community health centers and their contracted pharmacies.

“They tried to reduce that”, Moore argued. “And keep more money in their pockets, [rather] than allowing those savings to trickle down to safety net providers like community health centers to ensure people have access to the medicines that are important for good patient outcomes.

The report found that 92% of the country’s 1,400 health centers are using the $340 billion savings to increase access for low-income and/or rural patients. Moore pointed to a new clinic, which has added 300 to 400 new patients every month since it opened in January, and six school-based clinics, all made possible in part by savings below 340B.

“These clinics are an important access point for adolescents and young adults. But they don’t operate on a profitable basis. And we’re using the savings from the 340B program to make sure those hotspots can stay open. »