Keep fighting for drug discounts


Letter from Bob Chapman, MD, head of Hematology and Medical Oncology division Henry Ford Hospital | The Detroit News

It was disappointing to read Stephen Rapundalo’s op-ed (“Fix drug discount program,” Nov. 27) which mischaracterizes the 340B drug discount program and falsely claims the program no longer works as intended.

The 340B program works by requiring drug companies to extend discounts on outpatient drugs to qualifying hospitals, clinics, and health systems as a condition of participating in the large Medicaid and Medicare Part B markets. This then makes it possible for Henry Ford Hospital and other safety net hospitals to care for low-income uninsured and underinsured patients.

The savings support services ranging from free and low-cost drugs to care for patients with cancer, HIV, and other conditions. In fact, only 36 percent of hospitals qualify as 340B disproportionate share hospitals, which serve a greater number of low-income and indigent populations. But these hospitals provide nearly 60 percent of the uncompensated care delivered in the U.S., powerful proof that the savings are going to the institutions that are dedicating themselves to helping the poor and underserved.

At a time when drug makers are charging record prices for their products and jacking up prices on cancer drugs and other lifesaving treatments, 340B is one of the only consumer protection laws on the books. So why would Rapandulo stand up as a critic of the program? Sadly, the answer is politics. A well-funded effort has been launched by big pharma to drill holes in 340B so that they can charge higher prices and reap bigger profits.

Shrinking 340B would only benefit drug manufacturers. Patients and the providers who care for them would suffer needlessly. That’s why people like Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters continue to stand up to big pharma and fight for 340B. We are grateful.