Letter: 340B program is working as intended

Rena Conti’s Dec. 18 column “340B effort is in need of reforms” mischaracterizes the 340B drug discount program and undervalues how essential it is to hospitals like ours and the patients we serve.

The 340B program was created by Congress in 1992 and requires drug companies to sell medications at a discount to hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income and rural patients. For many hospitals in Iowa, 340B is a vital lifeline that helps us provide free and discounted medications and other important services to low-income patients, especially in these times of exorbitant drug prices.

The value of 340B is evident. 340B program savings help Cass County Memorial Hospital provide essential mental health services as well as free medications to patients who could not otherwise afford it. At Boone County Hospital, the savings support the delivery of 150 babies annually in our labor and delivery unit, a largely underfunded and underpaid service. If the 340B program is scaled back, then our hospitals, and many across Iowa, would be forced to cut back or eliminate health care services.

Despite criticisms from drug companies and others, the 340B program is working as intended and is more necessary today than ever before.

The 340B discounts are only 1.3 percent of the $457 billion U.S. prescription drug market, but they go a long way in communities like ours. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst are supporters of 340B and improving access to care in our state. We need to support their work.

Crystal Starlin

Pharmacy director

Cass County Health System

Atlantic, Iowa

Carrie Galvan

340B program coordinator

Boone County Hospital

Boone, Iowa

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