BREAKING: HRSA unveils new website to gauge 340B drug prices

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Original story posted on: March 31, 2019

Safety-net providers once often overcharged for medications covered under the federal cost-saving program have a new resource to protect against it.

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) has launched a new secure website intended to serve as a tool through which safety-net healthcare providers participating in the 340B federal drug pricing program can determine the maximum prices pharmaceutical companies can charge them for medications sold to them under the program, Administration officials announced this week.

In 2010, HRSA noted in a press release, Congress mandated that the government calculate and list such “ceiling prices” following reports by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) that documented a pattern of overcharges. That legislation also created civil monetary penalties for drug manufacturers that “knowingly and intentionally” overcharge safety-net hospitals for 340B drugs.

The penalties took effect in January 2019.

“Today marks a positive milestone in the history of the 340B drug pricing program,” 340B Health President and CEO Maureen Testoni said in a statement. “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. 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.”

Testoni will be the featured guest on today’s edition of Monitor Mondays, the weekly healthcare news web broadcast produced by RACmonitor.

Annual spending in the 340B program has reportedly approached $20 billion during recent years, or approximately triple the rate of a decade ago. That sum represents a little more than 5 percent of all domestic drug sales.

In the past, Testoni noted, those payments undoubtedly amounted to considerably more than was allowable under the program.

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has documented numerous instances of drug manufacturers overcharging safety-net providers for lifesaving medicines through 340B, undercutting resources designed to provide care to patients in need,” she said. “This overcharging led Congress to direct the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) to create (this) secure website, where the agency can post the 340B ceiling price for every drug sold to those providers. It has taken nine years to see that law turned into action, but we are pleased to see it happen.”

“Starting today,” Testoni added, “authorized personnel working for 340B providers can check the HRSA website and ascertain whether they are being charged the correct amounts. With this new transparency comes a needed increase in accountability for drug manufacturers. When this information is combined with the civil monetary penalty authority that Congress granted HRSA, manufacturers that knowingly and intentionally charge safety-net providers too much will be subject to financial penalties.”

Testoni singled out HRSA’s Office of Pharmacy Affairs and its leader, Captain Krista Pedley, for making it all possible.

For more information about the 340B program, including access to periodic updates and a series of FAQs, go online to https://www.hrsa.gov/opa/index.html.

Programming Note:

Listen to Maureen Testoni report this story live during today’s Monitor Monday, 10-10:30 a.m. EST.

Mark Spivey

Mark Spivey is a RACmonitor contributor who has been writing and editing articles about federal oversight of healthcare for nearly a decade. He can be reached at mcspivey@hotmail.com.

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