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Prescription discount program under threat

FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSIL) -- Prescription costs could increase for thousands in our region, if pharmaceutical companies get their way.

Community health care providers say a little known program called 340B is under attack; if lost, it could have an immediate impact on seniors and low-income families across the nation.

"The pharmaceutical companies, they're making plenty of money, they shouldn't come after our low income, poverty stricken patients, and this is exactly what they're doing," explains President and CEO of Christopher Area Rural Health Planning Corporation, Kim Mitroka. She says it is going to take legislation from Congress to stop drug manufactures from eliminating the cost-saving measures the 340B program provides.

"There's nothing that prevents them from doing this except decency and doing the right thing," says Mitroka. "I think they saw a loophole, they saw that there wasn't a law that prohibits them from doing this and they've decided to take advantage of that."

Program 340B allows health centers like Christopher Area Rural Health, and eligible hospitals, to receive discounts on the purchase of prescription drugs, and reinvest those savings into other patient programs.

Mitroka says the cost of many medications fluctuate like the price of gas, and "If we don't have that discount, there's no telling how much those cost could be."

The program is threatened to end on October 1st, giving little time to challenge drug manufactures. The National Association of Community Health Centers held an online press briefing Wednesday morning with participant Sue Veer, President & CEO, Carolina Health Centers, Inc., Greenwood, SC warning, "This is not a drill, the impact is already upon us."

Christopher Area Rural Health says if eliminated, the impact will web out, causing cuts in other patient services. They care for more than 40,000 patients in 11 southern Illinois counties each year. Mitroka says losing 340B will affect more than 50% of those patients.

"We have patients out there who are on medications that they need to be on, and they will no longer be able to receive those drugs," she adds.

The National Association of Community Health Centers issued a statement saying it is calling on Members of Congress, asking them to condemn the actions of drug manufactures, and they are calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to take measures immediately that will ensure the survival of the 340B program.

Joe Rehana

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