Commentary: Drug discount program helps Utah hospitals

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Holly Richardson’s November 30 op-ed contains misinformation and sorely mischaracterizes the 340B drug discount program, particularly as it applies to Utah hospitals.

The 340B program, created in 1992, was not initiated to address high cost drugs like HIV medications. The program was actually created in response to Federal legislation that inadvertently raised drug prices for safety-net providers. Congress’ intent of 340B is to help safety-net hospitals “stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible.” The program is NOT intended to provide discounts directly to low-income patients but to support the providers that serve them. This is not a “loophole” but the actual congressional intent of the program.

340B discounts are approximately $6 billion annually, representing 1.3 percent of the $457 billion U.S. prescription drug market. 340B doesn’t cost Utah taxpayers a dime and significantly helps our rural hospitals and safety-net providers extend care to all citizens, including those with limited ability to pay.

In Utah, 21 hospitals participate in 340B. Some of Utah’s hospitals are model citizens for the program, and it’s well documented that Utah hospitals use 340B savings to support the care of vulnerable patients. Utah hospitals have undergone extensive program audits and passed with flying colors.

Jim Jorgenson is the CEO of Visante, a health care consulting firm that works with 340B covered entities to meet compliance rules for the 340B program. Previously, he was the administrative director of pharmacy services for the University of Utah Health Care in Salt Lake City.