06.19.18

Senator Murray Condemns President Trump’s Sabotage of Drug Discount Program

Senate HELP Committee held third hearing on 340B program that helps make drugs more affordable for safety net care providers

 

Murray highlighted five safety net providers in Washington state using 340B savings to serve Washington communities

 

Murray: “Unfortunately, instead of working in good faith to make this system stronger, President Trump has worked to sabotage it…”

 

Trump Administration cut benefits to 340B providers and repeatedly undermined program accountability

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S SPEECH HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) — Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at the Committee’s third hearing on the 340B drug discount program, which helps safety net health care providers to stretch limited resources and maximize their impact in vulnerable communities.

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray shared success stories from Washington state, highlighting efforts by the Olympic Medical Center to provide discounted care in a community with many seniors and low-income patients, as well as programs at Providence St. Peter Hospital and Providence Centralia Hospital that provide free and discounted prescriptions and lower-cost chemotherapy services. In her questions to the Administration, she highlighted the burden of high specialty drug spending on Olympic Medical Center, Samaritan Hospital in and Grays Harbor Community Hospital—which limits their ability to provide services to patients and families living in these rural communities across Washington. She condemned President Trump’s measures to sabotage the 340B program by repeatedly delaying accountability measures, withdrawing critical guidance, and slashing reimbursements to providers. Senator Murray also called upon her colleagues to strengthen the program by pursuing necessary reforms that would improve accountability for pharmaceutical companies that provide 340B drugs, as well as entities that purchase these drugs.

 

At the top of her remarks, Senator Murray criticized President Trump’s policy of separating families at the U.S. border, called on him to end the practice, and noted Secretary Azar has yet to follow up on his promise at a recent hearing get Senator Murray information about what is being done to make sure parents know where their children are, whether they are safe, and when they will see them again.

 

Video of Senator Murray’s remarks available HERE.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“What President Trump is doing at the southern border right now, with the support of so many others in his Administration—including at HHS—is truly appalling. Separating children from their parents—tearing babies from breastfeeding moms—ripping families apart. This is what people across the country are seeing happening in their country’s name—it is a deliberate choice being made by President Trump and his Administration—and he needs to stop it. President Trump can end this right now—on his own—and he shouldn’t point fingers or wait any longer to act.”

 

“340B provides critical drug savings to providers who take on the burden of serving our communities with the greatest needs and fewest resources. It works by requiring pharmaceutical companies to discount their prices for these care providers who can then use those savings to—as the original congressional report puts it—‘stretch scarce federal resources,’ and ‘provide more comprehensive services.’”

 

“And while I’ve already shared so many great stories from across my state about the good work providers have been able to do with their 340B savings—I still have more. Stories from the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula, where Olympic Medical Center uses 340B savings to provide discounted care in a community with many seniors and low-income patients. Stories from Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Providence Centralia Hospital, where they have used 340B savings to provide thousands of free and discounted prescriptions a year and lower-cost chemotherapy services—including support and counseling for patients receiving treatment.”

 

“It’s clear many providers, in Washington state and across the country, are using these savings to make sure that even with few resources they can do a lot of good, and we should take steps to strengthen 340B by providing more accountability and transparency for everyone in the system. We should be confident entities are using their 340B savings appropriately and pharmaceutical manufacturers are providing 340B discounts fairly.”

 

“Unfortunately, instead of working in good faith to make this system stronger, President Trump has worked to sabotage it by repeatedly stalling measures to provide accountability and clarity, severely cutting funds to 340B recipients, and even suggesting 340B discounts somehow contribute to high drug prices.”

 

“President Trump has talked a lot about lowering drug prices—in crowds, in tweets, and in his deeply underwhelming ‘blueprint’—but instead of putting forward proposals to strengthen or expand 340B, the Blueprint characterizes 340B as a ‘business challenge’ that contributes to ‘downward pressure on revenues’ of drug companies. No mention of the real pressures low-income patients and families face. No mention of the great work being done by safety net providers keeping people healthy and delivering care close to home.”

 

“Instead of walking away from this program, we should strengthen it so providers in Washington state and nationwide can continue to use it to stretch their resources, support struggling families, and reach vulnerable communities.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witness for joining us today.

“Before I get into the topic of our hearing today, I want to make one brief comment on another issue that is on the minds of so many this morning. I know this isn’t your jurisdiction, but I hope you will pass this along to Secretary Azar.

 

“What President Trump is doing at the southern border right now, with the support of so many others in his Administration—including at HHS—is truly appalling. Separating children from their parents—tearing babies from breastfeeding moms—ripping families apart. This is what people across the country are seeing happening in their country’s name—it is a deliberate choice being made by President Trump and his Administration—and he needs to stop it.

 

“President Trump can end this right now—on his own—and he shouldn’t point fingers or wait any longer to act.

 

“Captain Pedley—I don’t know if you support this policy or not, and you should feel free to weigh in if you’d like—but I couldn’t let this hearing begin without passing my thoughts along on this—and I am hoping you will take them back with you and help your bosses understand that this is not acceptable.

 

“Especially because I asked Secretary Azar last week to tell me what is being done to ensure, at minimum, that parents know where their children are, whether they are safe, and when they will see them again and he has not yet given me that information.

 

“People across the country are going to keep paying attention to this—they are going to continue demanding action—and they are going to hold President Trump and this Administration accountable.

 

“I’m glad we can continue our conversation about how the 340B program helps so many safety net providers stretch their resources to serve vulnerable families and how we can help strengthen it.

 

“340B provides critical drug savings to providers who take on the burden of serving our communities with the greatest needs and fewest resources. It works by requiring pharmaceutical companies to discount their prices for these care providers who can then use those savings to—as the original congressional report puts it—‘stretch scarce federal resources,’ and ‘provide more comprehensive services.’


“At our previous hearings on 340B, I’ve shared stories from care providers across Washington state who are putting their 340B savings to good use. I’ve shared stories from Seattle, Spokane, Sequim, Olympia, Walla Walla, Monroe, and more.

 

“I’ve shared stories about programs that serve cancer patients, programs that serve homeless and low-income communities, programs in rural communities, and stories about countless patients who got the medications they needed but wouldn’t have been able to afford if their provider hadn’t been able to discount them.

 

“And while I’ve already shared so many great stories from across my state about the good work providers have been able to do with their 340B savings—I still have more. Stories from the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula, where Olympic Medical Center uses 340B savings to provide discounted care in a community with many seniors and low-income patients. Stories from Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia and Providence Centralia Hospital, where they have used 340B savings to provide thousands of free and discounted prescriptions a year and lower-cost chemotherapy services—including support and counseling for patients receiving treatment.

 

“It’s clear many providers, in Washington state and across the country, are using these savings to make sure that even with few resources they can do a lot of good, and we should take steps to strengthen 340B by providing more accountability and transparency for everyone in the system. We should be confident entities are using their 340B savings appropriately and pharmaceutical manufacturers are providing 340B discounts fairly.

 

“Unfortunately, instead of working in good faith to make this system stronger, President Trump has worked to sabotage it by repeatedly stalling measures to provide accountability and clarity, severely cutting funds to 340B recipients, and even suggesting 340B discounts somehow contribute to high drug prices.

 

“When the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, drafted a rule to make sure drug companies played by the rules and gave the discounts required by the law, the Trump Administration sabotaged it by delaying the rule—not once or twice, but five times. When HRSA drafted its so-called ‘mega-guidance,’ which would’ve provided more clarity for the program, the Trump Administration walked away from the table with stakeholders who wanted to find resolution on issues, and sabotaged the process by withdrawing the guidance completely.

 

“I’m particularly interested to hear what our witness today thinks of these efforts.

“While President Trump seems entirely uninterested in allowing oversight and guidance of the program, unfortunately, he has shown an interesting in cutting it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have traditionally reimbursed 340B-eligible care providers at market price—just like everyone else, but the Trump Administration is working to sabotage the program by slashing those reimbursements by nearly 30 percent for drugs. That dramatic cut is already hurting many of these care providers—and the families that rely on them.

 

“President Trump has talked a lot about lowering drug prices—in crowds, in tweets, and in his deeply underwhelming ‘blueprint’—but instead of putting forward proposals to strengthen or expand 340B, the Blueprint characterizes 340B as a ‘business challenge’ that contributes to ‘downward pressure on revenues’ of drug companies. No mention of the real pressures low-income patients and families face. No mention of the great work being done by safety net providers keeping people healthy and delivering care close to home.

 

“The Trump Administration’s suggestion—that this program which makes companies lower their prices is actually a barrier keeping companies from lowering their prices—contradicts itself. It also contradicts what we saw after Republicans jammed through their partisan tax bill—companies spent that major giveaway on massive stock buybacks, not on lowering prices.

 

“This Blueprint speaks louder than the President’s promises—his Administration’s actions to sabotage 340B, which actually helps make drugs more affordable, are moving us in exactly the wrong direction.

 

“Instead of walking away from this program, we should strengthen it so providers in Washington state and nationwide can continue to use it to stretch their resources, support struggling families, and reach vulnerable communities.

 

“We need to look at every part of the 340B system for ways to make sure it is accountable enough to fulfill its intent and solid enough to continue serving our communities for generations to come. These hearings have been a great opportunity to do that, and I look forward to seeing what our witness today adds to that conversation.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”

 

###