The 340B program “will not be overlooked” if the drug industry strikes a grand bargain with Congress and the Biden administration on lowering drug prices, biopharma policy analyst Michael McCaughan predicted this week during a talk on drug pricing reform at the 340B Coalition virtual summer conference.
“I do want to stress, manufacturers are talking about some kind of grand bargain on drug pricing,” said McCaughan, a contributor to and the former editor-in-chief of The Pink Sheet, a leading drug industry trade publication. “They will not be overlooking the 340B program. None of you will be overlooking the 340B program either. It’s going to be an important part of the conversation.”
Congress is ready to tackle drug pricing this year, and about $600 billion in savings from various drug pricing reforms are included in the framework for the administration’s Build Back Better COVID-19 relief, economic recovery, and infrastructure plan, McCaughan said. The drug industry wants a deal, too, in part because investors are eager to declare the drug-pricing issue over. But the industry is unwilling to pay the price that some congressional Democrats want to impose on it, he said.
“How does 340B fit in if there is a big agreement on drug pricing?” McCaughan asked.
Although the 340B program is on the radar as never before, he said, “I personally don’t see a lot of appetite in Congress to try and solve or answer a lot of the tough questions on 340B”
“I do think there might be bipartisan support for making it easier” for the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to issue rules to clarify program requirements, he said. “That seems to be a simple fix. “
“This is just one man’s opinion, but I think there would be support for some additional reporting requirements for covered entities, like hospitals, on how they use their savings,” McCaughan said. “I think it’s a potential area where it could pass.”
A bipartisan group of 10 senators yesterday announced an agreement with the White House on a compromise framework for investment in traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, without raising taxes. News organizations report that money to pay for the infrastructure improvements would come in part from savings achieved by making changes in prescription drug policy. The legislative text of the agreement has not been released yet. The Senate voted yesterday to begin debating infrastructure improvements this week. It is scheduled to begin a five-week summer break on Aug. 7.