Screenshot of RealClear Health 340B Program story, "340B Program Isn't Working for Patients"
Industry-supported consumer protection group National Consumers League sharply criticized 340B hospitals and contract pharmacies in a recent opinion article for a conservative-leaning news site.

Drug Industry-Funded Consumer Group Slams 340B on Conservative News Site

America’s oldest consumer protection group, shunned by some former allies in the labor movement for alleged favoritism toward its corporate donor Amazon, has slammed the 340B program in a commentary for the conservative-leaning news and opinion website RealClearHealth.

“Sadly, as the program has grown, it appears it has lost its way,” National Consumers League (NCL) Executive Director Sally Greenberg wrote in the May 6 article. “The billions in funds that hospitals save don’t appear to be reaching patients as intended, instead fattening the coffers of hospitals and for-profit pharmacies.”

“We call on Congress and the federal agencies overseeing 340B to investigate abuses of the program and close loopholes so that patients, not profit-seekers, are getting the benefits Congress intended,” Greenberg said.

NCL was founded in 1899 by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, two towering figures of the Progressive Era during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Eleanor Roosevelt was NCL’s vice president in the 1930s.

News organization Bloomberg reported in August 2021 that the presidents of the United Food & Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers of America, and the United Auto Workers resigned from NCL’s board over online retailer Amazon’s involvement with the group.

NCL’s 2020 annual report listed the three major U.S. drug industry trade groups (Association for Accessible Medicines, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) and eight drug manufacturers (AbbVie, Allergan, AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson Services Inc., Mylan, Pfizer) as donors.

The American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP), a prominent champion of hospitals that participate in the 340B program, was listed as a donor. It acknowledged but has not yet responded to a request for comment on NCL’s article.

The American Pharmacists Association, which ran the 340B program’s Pharmacy Services Support Center under a federal contract from 2002 through 2012, was listed as a NCL donor too. So was health insurance trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.

NCL’s website indicates the group’s interest in 340B is new. Before this spring, there were only scattered mentions of the program on the site. On March 31, NCL held a briefing about a white paper on 340B hospitals’ charity care and operating margins that was funded by AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Lilly, Exelixis, Gilead, Novartis, and Sanofi. The study was by Neal Masia, a former chief economist and vice president of Pfizer and former policy adviser to the 2000 Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.).