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Discount drug pricing: Cutting through the controversy

Lola Butcher
Lola Butcher

Debate about the government’s 340B Drug Pricing Program continues to build as the program expands. Like all good controversies, this one has enthusiastic advocates and wild-eyed opponents, and it’s easy to get snagged by the passion of the partisans.

340B is a discount program that requires pharmaceutical companies to sell outpatient drugs – both branded and generic – to eligible health care organizations at significantly reduced prices, up to half off in some cases. The program was created in 1992 to help provider organizations that serve a lot of poor people stretch their resources.

Over the years, the eligibility criteria to participate has expanded repeatedly. Currently, safety-net hospitals, children’s hospitals, critical access hospitals, federal health centers and other organizations are eligible; organizations that fall into those categories must register and enroll in the 340B program.

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