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Attorney General William Tong

10/06/2020

AG Tong Demands Drug Makers Abandon Unlawful Actions Imperiling Access to Affordable Prescriptions for Low-Income Patients

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today sent letters to Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Merck, Sanofi, and Novartis demanding the drug makers immediately abandon unlawful actions imperiling access to affordable prescriptions for low-income patients.

“My office will not stand idly by while [drug makers] prioritize profits over access to affordable prescription medications and other critical medical services for vulnerable communities. Therefore, I urge [Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Merck, Sanofi, and Novartis] to abandon [their] unilateral and unlawful actions,” Attorney General Tong states in the letters.

The 340B Drug Pricing Program requires drug manufacturers to provide discounted drugs to eligible health centers and hospitals, including community health centers, nonprofit and public hospitals, and Ryan White HIV/AIDS clinics. The facilities can either directly provide discounted drugs to low-income patients, or contract with pharmacies to dispense the drugs at a discount. Since 1992, the 340B Drug Pricing Program has been a lifeline to low-income patients and community-based health centers and hospitals who serve vulnerable and low-income populations, ensuring access to care and medication that might otherwise be unaffordable.

Flouting federal requirements, drug makers including Eli Lilly and Astra Zeneca have threatened unilateral changes to their participation in the program, instituting new data sharing requirements that may violate federal health privacy laws, and abruptly refusing to ship drugs to pharmacies.

“This is outrageous. By refusing to honor contract pharmacy orders, [the drug manufacturers] would disrupt an essential mode used by many covered entities for dispensing 340B drugs to underserved and vulnerable patient populations who rely on these pharmacies in their communities to fill their prescriptions,” Attorney General Tong states in the letters.

Attorney General Tong states that the drug makers actions directly undermine the 340B Drug Pricing Program, obstruct patient access to critical prescription medications, and devastate the financial stability of healthcare centers and hospitals serving vulnerable communities. He warns that the changes flout federal requirements. The unilateral changes are especially appalling given the role these critical safety net healthcare institutions are playing during the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is no legal basis for [these] actions. Denying outpatient access to appropriate 340B drug pricing is a clear violation of federal law. Nothing in the Act allows [Eli Lilly, Astra Zeneca, Merck, Sanofi, and Novartis] to impose conditions or restrictions on covered entities’ access to 340B drug pricing, including discontinuing the longstanding practice of shipping drugs to contract pharmacies,” Attorney General Tong states in the letters.

Click here to download the letters.

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