340B State of Affairs – Study Reveals Benefits to Vulnerable, Chronically Ill Patients

by Polsinelli
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The 340B provider community received welcome news from a recent study published by Health Affairs, which published a long-awaited report analyzing 12 months of outpatient prescription data to identify trends in 340B contract pharmacy prescriptions.

The 340B Program is a federally mandated program that provides qualified organizations that serve vulnerable and/or low income patients ("Covered Entities") with access to significantly discounted outpatient drugs.

The Health Affairs study is the first of its kind since the 2010 expansion of the 340B Program to include multiple Covered Entity contract pharmacies. The study, titled "The 340B Discount Program: Outpatient Prescription Dispensing Patterns Through Contract Pharmacies in 2012," utilized all of Walgreens' 2012 prescription dispensing data, including non-340B and 340B prescriptions, to assess: a) the volume of 340B vs. Walgreens' total prescription volume, and b) the typical drugs dispensed and patients treated with the 340B drugs provided by Walgreens on behalf of Covered Entities.

You can access the subscription-based study on the Health Affairs website.

This important study revealed several findings that support the value and need of the 340B program. First, 340B represented less than 0.5 percent of the approximate 500 million prescriptions dispensed by Walgreens in 2012. This result suggests that 340B is a very minor component of Walgreens' prescribing operations even after the 2010 expansion of the 340B Program.

The study also revealed that the majority of 340B contract pharmacy dispensations were written by providers from tuberculosis clinics and community health centers, such as federally qualified health centers. Only about 20 percent of all 340B prescriptions filled by Walgreens in 2012 originated from hospitals. This statistic suggests that the 340B program, in large part, reaches the vulnerable and low income population as originally intended.

The study also found that the contract pharmacy program's focus remains on chronically ill patients. In the study, the overwhelming majority of all 340B drugs dispensed by Walgreens were used to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, depression and HIV/AIDS. Nearly 80 percent of all 340B dispensed specialty drugs were provided to patients living with AIDS/HIV.

As stakeholders continue to assess the cost/benefit of the 340B Program, it is important that the community considers data-drive studies, like those published by Health Affairs. Although there is still work to be done and this study only represents data from one retail pharmacy, the data seems to suggest that the 340B Program is critical to vulnerable patients.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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