Provider Faces of 340B
Cynthia Martens, Pharmacy Manager, Monroe County Hospital, Monroeville, AL
Monroeville, AL, was Harper Lee's hometown and the model for Maycomb in her beloved novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The town’s economic lifeblood thrives on book-related tourism, textiles and wood products, all of which took a hard hit during the Great Recession of 2008-09.
Monroe County Hospital, Monroeville’s 94-bed public institution, “provides a big portion of the healthcare to a part of Alabama that's very poor,” says Cynthia Martens, the hospital's pharmacy manager. Black Belt refers to the dark color of the region’s soil. And if the hospital didn't have access to lower prices on outpatient medicines through the 340B drug discount program, “we would not be here,” she's quick to add.
Patients benefit tangibly almost every day from the hospital's participation in 340B, often without realizing it. “Just the other day we had a patient without insurance who was bitten by a cottonmouth snake,” Martens explains. The company that sells CroFab, the anti-venom for these emergencies, doesn't participate in 340B so the drug can't be bought at a reduced price. It costs Monroe County Hospital roughly $5,000 per vial. The hospital gave the patient 11 vials. “We're not going to get a single penny for doing that,” Martens said. “But somewhere else, we were able to purchase another drug for another patient using the 340B discount. And that gave us the ability to stretch our dollars so we could take care of that guy with the bite.”
Participating in 340B also makes it possible Monroe County Hospital to give insulin for free to diabetic patients who can't pay. The hospital also able to provide oncology medicines at reduced cost to needy patients being treated for cancer.
“I was around when there wasn't a 340B program,” she says. “340B coming in was a lifesaver to so many of these patients that had no ability to pay for their care. I have a passion for my patients. I want them to have an avenue where they don’t need to worry. I don't want to see them suffer because they can't get something that they need.”