VTDigger.org published an article titled, “Welch Continues Push to Rein in Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices.” The article reads in part as follows;
“Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) today introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) that would address a loophole in the Medicare 340B Drug Pricing Program that is contributing to the rising cost of health care for consumers and threatening access to lifesaving medications. The introduction of this legislation is the latest in Welch’s efforts to fix the broken prescription drug market that has led to unrestrained price increases for consumers and providers.
The full text of the Closing Loopholes for Orphan Drugs Act can be found HERE.
“Drug companies have been taking advantage of the ‘orphan drug’ loophole since 2014 at the expense of consumers and rural hospitals and healthcare providers,” Rep. Welch said. “Vermont hospitals rely on the 340B program to ensure they are able to continue to serve those with health care needs. These hospitals and those they serve cannot afford to have this critical program circumvented due to yet another market failure that allows big drug corporations to cash in at their expense.”
“Congressman Welch and I have clarified the scope and intent of the designation for which drugs are excluded from the 340B Program pricing, which will enable hospitals and rural health centers to provide the best possible care options for our country’s most vulnerable patients,” Rep. Griffith said. “This clarification will close the orphan drug loophole, currently allowing drug companies to charge healthcare facilities in Southwest Virginia and other rural and underprivileged areas a higher price than intended by the program as designed by Congress.”
The 340B Drug Pricing Program requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations at significantly reduced prices. This includes Federally Qualified Health Centers, Critical Access Hospitals, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grantees, and certain types of hospitals and specialized clinics with a high proportion of Medicare and Medicaid patients. Vermont has 14 number of hospitals that participate in the 340B program. Current law excludes so called “orphan drugs,” which are designated by the Department of Health and Human Services and treat rare diseases, from this program. In 2013, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) implemented rulemaking, which limited this exclusion only to instances of these drugs being used for their orphan indication. However, in 2014, the pharmaceutical industry sued. Ultimately, a federal district court struck down the finalized rule, claiming that HRSA lacked the authority to issue rulemaking in this matter.”