Big Pharma Is Having to Pay Refunds for Upcharging Rural, Largely Conservative Communities

I am afraid that, once again, I need to point out just how the biggest companies in America routinely do all they can to break the rules while receiving no punishment from our government. This time, we must return to our dear friends, the pharmaceutical companies, who are now having to refund pharmacies serving rural, working-class Americans (it may surprise you that, for some reason, these things seem to hit center-right voters the hardest) for overcharging for medications.

While completely unsurprising, (I’ve covered the 340B program here at RedState repeatedly) what is shown time and time again is pharmaceutical companies, while raking in record profits, will stop at nothing to avoid offering discounts on drugs required by federal law.

There are often trends in news cycles that go largely unnoticed because the mainstream media reports items one at a time, rather than connecting important dots. Since this is an instance of the MSM doing just that: I’m going to connect the dots and show you Big Pharma’s latest attempt to not offer discounts on life-saving medications for rural patients in order to bump up profits.

Since 2020, drug companies have been restricting discounts to disadvantaged communities. AstraZeneca is a repeat offender here.

But AstraZeneca isn’t alone in cracking down on drugs sold under the 340B program. Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Novartis and Merck & Co. have also implemented new restrictions or initiatives, according to reports. In August, seven hospital and pharmacy groups asked (PDF) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar to enforce the 340B rules following new moves from the companies.

Last week’s protest followed a lawsuit (PDF) filed by Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access against HHS calling on the agency to force AZ, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Sanofi to comply with 340B requirements. The group alleges the companies “flouted the 340B statute and regulation by openly refusing to sell 340B discounted drugs to covered entities when ordered via contract pharmacy arrangements.”

An AstraZeneca spokesman said via email the company is “strongly committed” to the 340B program. The company’s products “have been—and will continue to be—available to all covered entities at or below applicable statutory ceiling prices,” he said, adding that the company’s “new approach to contract pharmacy arrangements fully complies with all operative requirements.”

What they’re doing, of course, not only hurts patients in disadvantaged communities that rely on these medications; it’s also against the law.

Well, once again, the pharmaceutical companies are being spanked for breaking the rules, but there is no indication that our government is doing anything to keep it from happening again. Glasko-Smith-KlinePurdue Pharmaceuticals (special gold star to them for being the manufacturer of Oxycontin, a drug that has not exactly been great for rural America), Meitheal PharmaceuticalsTolmar, Inc., and Janssen Biotech (Johnson&Johnson) are all now having to refund the providers they overcharged when they refused to offer the required discounts.

Maybe some newsrooms feel like it’s not news when a pharmaceutical company does what it is supposed to do by law. But it strikes me as newsworthy that these companies have been overcharging to such a massive degree– and are now having to issue refunds– at the same time that they are trying to gut the program that requires them to offer discounts.

It also seems convenient that this total lack of coverage occurs when we’re talking about an issue that disproportionately impacts people in red areas, as opposed to the Acela corridor.


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