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Recently, drug manufacturers who participate in Medicaid have taken unilateral action to undermine the 340B drug program.

The 340B program provides discounts on outpatient prescription drugs to improve care for the uninsured and underinsured. Drug manufacturers want to limit distribution of certain drugs, and to require detailed reporting requirements distributed through hospitals, contract pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

West Virginia’s hospitals and FQHCs serve more than 500,000 West Virginians who are enrolled in the Medicaid program. With West Virginia among the states leading the nation in the poorest health statistics, during a pandemic, it is unconscionable to believe that undermining the 340B program is a good idea for patients. It will devastate an industry that is already struggling in an economic environment where more than half of the state’s residents have coverage from governmental programs that pay hospitals and providers less than cost to provide the care.

Legislators need to work vigorously to reverse these actions. The result from just two drug manufacturers on Thomas Health could exceed $2.5 million a year. West Virginia hospitals and academic medical centers will lose millions, curtailing or eliminating services and creating massive layoffs and loss of access to care for the state’s most vulnerable patients.

Without the 340B assistance on drug costs, how much worse will West Virginia’s health statistics get? We will be the state with the unhealthiest patient population in America in short order.

There is no provision in the 340B legislation, as adopted, that allows the actions of drug manufactures to deny service to covered entities or choose where covered entities may dispense the drugs they purchase; it is in direct violation of the 340B legislation.

Congressional leaders and the West Virginia delegation need to strongly urge U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to oppose this action. Gov. Jim Justice needs to understand the effect of this on patients, the state hospitals and providers during a pandemic and take action at the highest level to overturn this undermining effort. Our residents’ health is hanging in the balance.

Dan Lauffer is president

and CEO of Thomas Health.