340B Hospitals Offer More Assistance Overcoming Barriers to Medication Access

Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Hospitals participating in the 340B Drug Pricing Program provide more medication access services—services that help remove barriers to accessing necessary medications—than comparably sized non-340B hospitals, according to a study published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. The study authors noted that 340B participating hospitals may be better positioned to create and administer programs that support patients who are uninsured or underinsured, and those who may have job, transportation, and other social insecurities.

“Medication access services are an important way that hospitals support patients whose health and wellbeing are dependent on medications but who otherwise may struggle to afford or access drugs,” said Sandra Durley, PharmD, in a prepared statement. “This includes patients with a range of illnesses, from chronic health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension to people who have required life-saving transplants.”

The investigators collected primary questionnaire response data from pharmacy directors at non-federal acute care hospitals from March 2019 to May 2019, assessing the availability of 9 medication access service offerings. Hospitals in the 340B program offered an average of 6.2 services, while non-340B hospitals offered an average of 3.9 services after an adjustment for hospital size.

All 9 services assessed were provided by a higher percentage of 340B hospitals compared to non-340B hospitals, according to the results of the survey. This difference was statistically significant for 6 of the assessed services: assistance with prior authorizations, discharge prescription services, free immunizations, free or discounted outpatient medications, medication therapy management, and patient assistance programs. The remaining 3 services—free prescription delivery, free medications from the emergency department, and transitions of care—had no statistically significant difference between the 2 hospital categories.

The survey also analyzed general health care services, finding that for all 4 services analyzed, an equivalent or higher percentage of 340B hospitals compared with non-340B hospitals reported providing the service. The difference in provision was statistically significant for 2 of the services analyzed: the provision of drug and alcohol outpatient treatment services, and HIV/AIDS outpatient services. The remaining 2—providing free or discounted transportation to health services, and providing housing support for homeless patients—had no significant difference.

According to the authors of the study, while the survey was conducted before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the data is likely to be just as relevant today, if not more relevant.

“We've seen increased job loss and social insecurity over the last year that has essentially compounded the barriers experienced by underserved communities who are also bearing the brunt of COVID illness,” Durley said, in the statement. “The pandemic is highlighting that there is a greater need for services that support vulnerable communities, not a lesser need.”

REFERENCE

340B hospitals offer more assistance removing barriers to medication access [news release]. EurekAlert; May 5, 2021. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/uoia-3ho050521.php