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Federal drug pricing program 340B important for rural health care providers in W.Va.

By Esteban Fernandez, Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — After Craig Blair lost the GOP primary for his seat in the West Virginia Senate, he set out to make one thing clear.

“The reasons I lost are evident to anyone on the ground here in West Virginia,” Blair wrote in an op-ed submitted to the Dominion Post. “One reason you will not find among them is my support for a federal drug discount program that costs taxpayers nothing and disproportionately benefits rural, working-class voters — you might even call the MAGA supporters — in places like my district.”

Blair is a champion of a federal program known as the 340B Drug Pricing Program. Its name is a reference to section 340B of the Public Health Service Act, which requires pharmaceutical manufacturers participating in Medicaid to sell outpatient drugs at discounted prices to health care organizations that care for uninsured and low-income patients. Rural populations particularly benefit from the program. 

“We very much keep a very close eye on what’s happening at both the federal and state level with regards to 340B,” Todd Karpinski, chief pharmacy office for WVU Medicine, said. “There’s a group within pharma who would like the 340B program to be scaled back dramatically. Essentially, they’re the ones taking the loss but as you know, major pharma companies aren’t losing money. They make billions and billions of dollars.”

Karpinski said the 340B program does not cost the federal or state government a dime. The program is supported and funded by pharma based on legislation from the mid 1990s.

The program has been in place since 1992, according to Adam Croglia, managing director of Washington, D.C.-based Trysail Strategies. The company is working to get the word out about 340B. Croglia said the point of the program was to figure out how to enable better health care for people who need it but can’t afford it. 

“This is not health care for the rich,” he said. “This is health care for the poor and the people who need it.”

Emily Blaiklock, vice president of Pharmacy at Positive Impact Health Centers and Bill Keeton, chief advocacy officer for Vivent Health, are both strong proponents of the program. They are also both part of the Ryan White Clinics, a national organization that tries to elevate the importance of 340B issues as it relates to HIV care providers.

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