In case you missed it, a recent article in The Charlotte Observer spotlights new revelations about the 340B drug discount program in North Carolina. An inquiry by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in September 2014 led to the discovery that three North Carolina nonprofit hospitals—Duke University Hospital, Carolinas Medical Center and University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals—have made millions from the program, which was created to help the vulnerable or uninsured patients afford their medicines.
The following findings are raising eyebrows as to whether the program is functioning as intended:
- Last year, Duke University Hospital purchased $65.8 million in medicines through 340B. The steep 340B discounts allowed the hospital to generate an additional $48.3 million in profit from sales of the medicines to patients. Duke’s profit from 340B is significantly more than the free or discounted care the hospital provides to low-income patients, which totaled just $35.2 million.
- UNC reported receiving $65.4 million in revenue from medicines bought through the program from 2008 to 2011, but has not provided profit figures.
The article mentions a letter Senator Grassley wrote last week to the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the federal agency overseeing the program, and is awaiting a response. He says in the letter, “These numbers paint a very stark picture of how hospitals are reaping sizeable 340B discounts on drugs and then turning around and up-selling them to fully insured patients in order to maximize their spread.”
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