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HHS Issues Opinion Regarding Illegal Attempts by Drug Manufacturers to Deny 340B Discounts under Contract Pharmacy Arrangements

Client Alert

The federal 340B discount drug program is a safety net for many federally qualified health centers, disproportionate share hospitals, and other covered entities. This program allows these providers to obtain discount pricing on drugs which in turn allows the providers to better serve their patient populations and provide their patients with access to vital health care services. Over the years, the 340B program has faced intense scrutiny, particularly by drug manufacturers who are required by federal law to provide the discounted pricing.

Ongoing struggles between covered entities and drug manufacturers continued in 2020 when six manufacturers unilaterally decided to deny 340B discount drug pricing to covered entities utilizing contract pharmacy arrangements. This led to lawsuits filed by the American Hospital Association and a national network of HIV/AIDS clinics in the Fall of 2020. The battle between the covered entities and drug manufacturers took a unique twist on December 30, 2020 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued Advisory Opinion 20-06, which instructed that drug manufacturers were not legally permitted to deny the discounted 340B pricing to contract pharmacy arrangements. 

The HHS Advisory Opinion made three key conclusions:

  1. The plain language of the 340B Statute requires manufacturers to provide the 340B discounted pricing to covered entities independent of whether the covered entity chooses to utilize a third-party contract pharmacy to dispense the drugs.
  1. The purpose and history of the 340B program indicate that contract pharmacies have always been an integral part of the 340B program and HHS’s longstanding interpretation of the 340B statute and regulations has recognized the legitimate use of contract pharmacies.
  1. Manufacturers are inappropriately attempting to circumvent the 340B program’s standing procedures for resolving disputes between manufacturers and covered entities by unilaterally excluding contract pharmacy arrangements from their 340B discount drug pricing.

While the HHS Advisory Opinion does not have the binding effect of law, it should be noted that HHS, through its Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”), oversees the 340B program. Only time will tell if the Advisory Opinion will persuade drug manufacturers to resume 340B pricing to covered entities utilizing contract pharmacy relationships. Stay tuned for future developments.

If you are interested in learning more about the 340B discount drug program or collaborative strategies to enhance patient care opportunities for 340B covered entities, please contact BMD Healthcare and Hospital Law Member Jeana M. Singleton at jmsingleton@bmdllc.com or 330-253-2001, or any member of the BMD Healthcare and Hospital Law group

For an update on actions the state of Ohio is taking to reduce predatory practices of PBMs, see BMD Healthcare and Hospital Law Member Daphne Kackloudis' article, SB 263 Protects 340B Covered Entities from Predatory Practices in Ohio.

New York, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Delaware Become the latest States to Adopt Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly created many obstacles and hardships, it also created many opportunities to try doing things differently. This can be seen in the instant rise of remote work opportunities, telehealth visits, and virtual meetings. Many States took the challenges of the pandemic and turned them into an opportunity to adjust the regulations governing licensed professionals, including for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.