The new website, aimed at assisting safety-net providers participating in the federal drug pricing program, was warmly greeted by an advocacy group.
After nine years, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) launched a website for safety-net providers participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program to determine the maximum price prescription drugs can be charged by drugmakers under the program.
The oft-discussed 340B program has been the subject of widespread conversation on Capitol Hill in recent years as critics seek to install greater oversight on the program, which some have accused of being wasteful and rife with abuse.
Proponents of the program, first established in 1992, view it as a necessary factor for the financial health of hospitals around the country, especially those serving vulnerable populations.
HRSA's new website seeks to provide additional transparency to the 340B program while also aiding the safety-net providers that rely on the program for affordable prescription drug options. HRSA did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Following passage of the ACA in 2010, Congress moved to have ceiling list prices calculated and made available on a public website after reports of drug overcharges in a report issued by the HHS Office of Inspector General.
Additionally, drugmakers were set to be subjected to monetary penalties for knowingly overcharging safety-net providers.
However, the final rule included in the legislation endured five separate delays from HRSA receiving disappointed responses from program advocates like 340B Health.
The rule finally went into effect on January 1, 2019.
In light of Monday's announcement, Maureen Testoni, CEO of 340B Health, welcomed the debut of HRSA's website, calling it a "positive milestone" in the history of the 340B drug pricing program.
"Today’s launch of a secure website listing the maximum allowable prices for all 340B covered drugs brings a healthy dose of sunshine into a marketplace that has, for far too long, been a black box," Maureen Testoni, CEO of 340B Health, said in a statement. "Until today, hospitals, clinics, and health centers participating in 340B had no way to be sure they were paying the correct amount for the drugs they purchase.”
Additionally, Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the American Hospital Association (AHA), issued a press statement praising the new website Monday afternoon.
"The AHA is pleased that, in response to our successful lawsuit, the Health Resources and Services Administration today launched a new website to shine needed light on 340B drug pricing, which the government has found lacking," Nickels said. "This website will help make sure hospitals participating in the program are not being overcharged by drug companies and that instances of price gouging can be uncovered and penalties enforced. As prescription drug prices continue to skyrocket, the 340B program is as crucial as ever in helping hospitals provide access to health care services for patients in vulnerable communities."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include commentary from the American Hospital Association.
Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.