U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who has backed 340B covered entities in several policy battles, is running to succeed his fellow Democrat Patrick Leahy in the U.S. Senate.
Senate President Pro Tempore Leahy, 81, announced on Nov. 15 that he would not run for an eighth term in November 2022. Welch announced his Senate campaign on Twitter on Nov. 22.
Since 2016, Welch and a succession of Republican partners have sponsored bipartisan bills to close a loophole that denies rural and cancer hospitals 340B pricing on drugs designated for orphan diseases and conditions. Critical access hospitals, sole community hospitals, rural referral centers, and free-standing cancer hospitals would get access to 340B pricing when orphan drugs are used for non-orphan conditions. Welch teamed up with Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) on the latest version of the bill.
In September 2020, Welch, McKinley, and Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) persuaded more than half of the House to sign a bipartisan letter urging then U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to take immediate action against drug companies denying 340B pricing when covered entities use contract pharmacies.
In May this year, Welch asked Azar’s successor Xavier Becerra during a hearing if he intended to take enforcement action against the six companies that, as of that time, were denying such pricing. “We are on this one,” Becerra answered. Five days later, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) sent the six companies letters telling them that their restrictions on 340B were illegal and had to stop.
In November 2017, Welch attended and spoke at an event in the U.S. Senate celebrating the 340B program’s 25th anniversary. It was organized by the 340B Coalition and included several lawmakers.