This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Community Voices for 340B (CV340B) Opinion Leaders Forum in Fort Worth, Texas. For those unfamiliar with the 340B Drug Pricing Program, it is a government program that requires drug manufacturers to provide discounted drugs to participating hospitals and clinics (referred to as covered entities) at no cost to taxpayers.
Because the covered entities save money on drug purchases, the 340B Program is often diminished to a “drug discount program.” This limited understanding of the 340B Program fails to consider the ways in which covered entities use their respective savings to benefit their communities.
When the 340B Program was created in 1992 by the Veterans Health Care Act, it stated that the program’s intent is to “enable covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.” Covered entities are eligible for 340B because they serve large percentages of underserved and underinsured patients.
At the 340B Opinion Leaders Forum, I was humbled to hear the story of a Tarrant County citizen who was diagnosed HIV positive during the height of the AIDS epidemic. At the time, a positive HIV diagnosis was considered a death sentence, and the “drug cocktails” that consisted of as much as 30 medications a day were cost prohibitive. She endured extreme hardship in receiving treatment and ultimately found assistance through what was then called the AIDS Hospice Program, a Ryan White grantee organization that participated in the 340B Program.
Today, this program has been renamed AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the patients they treat are often able to reach undetectable levels of the virus with a single anti-retroviral per day. With the support of the 340B Program, Ryan White clinics, like AFH, continue to provide support, care, and medication to people living with HIV— reaching over half a million people each year across the nation.
This patient’s story illustrates how the 340B Program can not only change lives but also save lives. Manifesting differently for each covered entity, 340B savings equals opportunity— the opportunity to create or expand facilities, programs and services, provide additional transportation for patients in remote areas, educate patients and students on healthcare resources and preventative practices, and reduce drug costs for indigent patient populations. In some cases, 340B savings are the difference between whether or not a clinic can keep its doors open.
At the CV340B Leadership Forum, healthcare professionals, covered entity compliance teams, and leaders from churches and local organizations gathered around BBQ and discussed how to advocate for the 340B Program as a means of advocating for the members of their community. It was a friendly reminder that the 340B community expands far beyond the individuals who spend their days reviewing 340B claims and managing purchasing accounts. We all have a role to play in the 340B Program.
Although the 340B Program does not come from taxpayer dollars, it is at risk due to pressures exerted by the pharmaceutical industry to curb the program’s growth and use of 340B savings.
I encourage you to educate yourself on the 340B Program and reach out to your local representatives and let them know what the 340B Program means to you and your community. The Community Voices for 340B website is a great place to start!
Product Support Analyst, Sectyr®
 Health Resources & Services Administration. About the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. https://hab.hrsa.gov/about-ryan-white-hivaids-program/about-ryan-white-hivaids-program.