John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) says in a recent blog entry that the Public Health Service 340B drug discount program is part of a “web of [federal] regulations that are preventing life saving drugs from reaching the patients who need them.” More specifically, he says that the program, which provides discounted drugs to safety-net institutions such as hospitals and clinics that treat large numbers of indigent patients, is “contributing” to severe prescription drug shortages.
His essay, however, offers no factual support for its claim that the 340B program is somehow causing shortages. His entire case against 340B drug discounts rests upon his belief that “when prices are kept artificially low, shortages develop.”
Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) issued a statement on drug shortages and their causes. Citing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other experts, the industry group says shortages can occur
for any number of reasons ranging from natural disasters; shifts in clinical practices; wholesaler and pharmacy inventory practices; raw material shortages; changes in hospital and pharmacy contractual relationships with suppliers and wholesalers that can cause fluctuations in the availability of certain products; adherence to FDA-mandated distribution protocols, which can impact patients’ timely access to medicines; individual company decisions to discontinue specific medicines; and manufacturing challenges.
The absence of any mention of 340B, or of government limits on drug prices more generally, is noteworthy given that PhRMA is not very fond of such programs.