Pharmacist, administrator explain 340B discount program
By: JORDAN GRUCZA
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Those interested in the federal 340B Prescription Drug Discount Program will find a labyrinth of information that even those who work in health care, or pharmaceuticals in Michelle’s Pharmacy owner Michelle Dyer’s case, find difficult to navigate.
“Since 340B contracts are so confusing, most clinics work with a third party to keep track of everything,” Dyer said. “Then the government does come and audit the clinics and those clinics have to have all their ducks in a row. It’s kind of tough to do that. The third party helps them with that also.
“The clinic is able to buy the medications at a deeply discounted price,” Dyer said. “It’s pennies on the dollar. Sometimes it’s just a penny. That’s the federal government’s way of getting money back for the drug companies. It’s complicated the way it all works, but we dispense the drugs and we get a dispensing fee for that, and then the clinics get part of the cost of the medication. It benefits them in a roundabout way.
“There’s a gentleman that we have who is able to get his insulin for about $8 a month, as opposed to the usual $300 to $400 price,” Dyer said.
“I did receive a contract last week from a third party that is helping the health department with their 340B program,” Dyer said. “I sat down and I talked with Christy Blank before the Health Board meeting. I was able to get an understanding of how their program worked, what their needs were, and then how I could meet their needs.
“One of the things they’re looking for is getting the medication to their patients and making sure they’re taking their meds the way they’re expected to,” Dyer said. “Christy and I are still talking and working out some details, but I think we’re going to be able to work through that. Possibly without using an outside pharmacy, but we’re not sure yet.
“The county board members were very responsive to me and very helpful and supportive, too,” Dyer said. “They would definitely like to keep it local, if they could. Sometimes things don’t happen that way, but I think in this case we should be able to help.”
Dyer confirmed that any pharmacy is welcome to join the program
“What I’ve seen around here when I’ve talked to other pharmacy owners, they usually work with the area clinics and area pharmacies.”
Macoupin County Public Health Department administrator Kent Tarro’s main concern is bringing pharmacies in and completing the process of joining the 340B process as soon as possible, as the deadline for this year is Oct. 15.
“We have offered the 340B contracts to everybody who wanted them,” Tarro said. “That includes Michelle’s, Sullivan’s, Walmart, Sav-Mor, Pharmacy Plus, and CVS.
“Walgreens in Litchfield and Wood River was the only store we were working with, and the big difference now for why people will probably participate is because there’s an administrative cost. 340B is a negotiated price for particular non-profit entities like non-profit hospitals and health centers.
“We would all benefit from this, but it’s not nearly quite as lucrative as it’s been explained,” Tarro said. “That’s because the Medicaid program does not participate in the 340B program and that’s 80 percent of our script business.
“At this point I think I only have the Walmart contract back,” Tarro said. “But everyone has had an equal chance. One thing I haven’t mentioned in this debate is that we have people come into our facilities from 15 counties, so we do want pharmacies from outside this county to be able to participate.
“It’s not a great big thing, nobody’s going to get rich off this, but one reason that pharmacies would be more encouraged to participate is we, the health center, are paying this company to set it all up and administrate it,” Tarro said. “There are a heck of a lot of accounting services and computer integration that have to be set up and monitored to make sure they’re working okay. Whoever is the person that prescribes is the one that has to pay for that administrative cost I mentioned before.”