Faces of 340B
LELAN STICE, DIRECTOR OF PHARMACY, CARDIOLOGY, AND SURGERY, JEFFERSON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, AR
Jefferson County in southeast Arkansas has its share of health problems that include higher-than-average rates of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But this predominantly rural community faces additional challenges that stem from the socioeconomic status of its residents – challenges that the region’s safety-net hospital tackles with the help of the 340B drug pricing program. More than 40 percent of the population of Jefferson County lives below the federal poverty level, making affordability of health care a large concern. Jefferson County Medical Center (JRMC) has responded to these challenges by using its 340B savings to offer significant discounts on costly drugs that patients need to stay healthy. By providing medications to eligible patients at the 340B price plus a small dispensing fee, the 471-bed acute care hospital cuts the patient’s cost from more than $300 a vial for certain kinds of insulin to about $40 a vial. JRMC also runs an oncology infusion program primarily for patients who are uninsured or who are on Medicaid. With the help of 340B savings, the program barely covers the costs of delivering that life-saving care. Without 340B, the program would sustain a million-dollar annual loss for the hospital and likely would have to shut down.