HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) last week opened its ceiling-price verification website for 340B drugs to all 340B providers—a move that will allow hospitals to determine whether drugmakers are overcharging them for drugs, Inside Health Policy reports.
Medicare's 340B drug discount program requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care providers at discounts ranging from 20% to 50%. The program, created by Congress in 1992 and expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), focuses its discounts on hospitals with disproportionately low-income patient populations.
The ACA directed HRSA to establish a ceiling-price verification website for 340B drugs. HRSA used the website internally, but the agency had said it could not give providers access to the site until HHS finalized a rule on 340B ceiling prices and penalties, Inside Health Policy reports.
The final rule originally was scheduled to take effect Feb. 28, 2017, and the federal government was scheduled to begin enforcing it on April 1, 2017. However, HHS delayed the final rule five times, which pushed back the rule's effective date to July 2019.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) and several other groups filed a lawsuit to compel HHS to release the final rule, and HHS settled the suit last year. HRSA in October 2018 issued a notice saying it intended to implement the rule on Jan. 1, 2019, and HHS said it would make 340B drug ceiling prices public in April, Modern Healthcare reports.
HRSA makes ceiling-price website available to providers
In accordance with that announcement, HRSA last week updated the Office of Pharmacy Affairs 340B Information system to allow 340B providers to view the ceiling prices for 340B drugs, Inside Health Policy reports.
Maureen Testoni—president and CEO of lobbying group 340B Health, which represents more than 1,300 hospitals—called the move a "positive milestone," adding that the change will "bring a healthy dose of sunshine into a marketplace that has, for far too long, been a black box." She noted that said HRSA most likely will make changes to the website over the next few months to ensure that it is user-friendly.
Testoni also said the website will hold 340B drugmakers accountable for their pricing. "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," she said.
Tom Nickels, AHA's executive vice president, similarly said giving providers access to the website will make it more difficult for drugmakers to overcharge hospitals for 340B drugs. "This website will help make sure hospitals participating in the program are not being overcharged by drug companies and that instances of price gouging can be uncovered and penalties enforced," he said (Stein, Inside Health Policy, 4/1 [subscription required]; King, Modern Healthcare, 4/1).
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