Zanesville health exec: Big Pharma hurting rural Ohioans by dodging federal law

Posted on Nov 20, 2023

A Zanesville-area health executive bashed Big Pharma for hurting rural Ohioans by dodging federal law in an op-ed Sunday.

The health executive is also asserting that Big Pharma’s actions could result in taxpayers having to fill in gaps in hospital funding, thanks to Big Pharma’s non-compliance with federal law.

The federal law in question is known as 340B; it was signed into law under President George H.W. Bush and is most easily understood as a swap under which Big Pharma companies get access to taxpayer-funded entitlement monies so long as they sell drugs at a discount to hospitals with particularly poorer patient pools. Increasingly, the program benefits hospitals in rural areas— like the health executive’s area, and notably also areas where classic Trump voters (rural, white working class) are dominant.

From the Zanesville Times-Recorder (print edition only):

340B is vital for Genesis HealthCare System. As the largest provider in a rural, six-county area, we care for a patient population that’s economically disadvantaged, with 18% of our residents living below the poverty line. Because we care for so many patients in need, we receive manufacturer discounts on outpatient prescription drugs.

We invest these savings into vital care for patients we otherwise would not be able to provide. Our organization saves about $42 million a year through 340B.


Losing access to 340B would not just threaten the nearly $3 million per year in free and discounted prescription drugs we provide patients, it would imperil the more than $40 million in uncompensated care we provide annually through our hospital and medical group. This includes care for patients who are uninsured, underinsured or enrolled in public health programs not covering full costs.


Unfortunately, loss of access to 340B savings already has begun. After spending years unsuccessfully urging Congress to cut 340B, several major drug manufacturers decided to ignore the law and impose restrictions on hospital access to discounts. These companies are attempting an end run around the broad, bipartisan support 340B has had since its enactment.

If drug companies are permitted to renege on their 30-year agreement with the government to support the health care safety net, it would place immense strain on the entire health care system and potentially on taxpayers who might be expected to cover the shortfalls.

This should be a concern to Ohio conservatives, not just because Big Pharma has not exactly endeared itself to many Trumpier-looking communities with vaccine mandates, the opioid crisis (which helped spur an HIV crisis), and high drug prices– including for drugs to treat HIV, but because Big Pharma fought Trump and like-minded Republicans incredibly hard on measures like Medicare prescription drug price negotiation and prescription drug re-importation.

It should also be a concern even to the more Paul Ryan-like Republicans in Ohio because of the point about strain potentially being put on taxpayers due to Big Pharma not complying with the law. If hospitals can’t make their budgets work due to Big Pharma non-compliance, you’d better believe they’re going to be asking for you and me to make up the difference, and we have very little money to spare for higher taxes these days, thanks to Bidenomics.

At the end of the day, this drug program may be noxious to Big Pharma because it hampers their profits (fair), but it costs taxpayers exactly nothing. Considering that Big Pharma fought for Medicare Part D and an expansion of Obamacare, it seems only fair that they should have to make some sort of a swap for the foundation this provides for their bottom lines and their stock prices, and this program is a relatively small-government, non-intrusive way of accomplishing that. People may not like the idea that the program is bigger than it was when it started, but that is a function of Obamacare passing– and again, Big Pharma helped achieve that when they decided it was a good trade for them to make because thanks to Rahm Emanuel’s deal-cutting, Obamacare explicitly ruled out prescription drug reimportation.

Basically, Big Pharma appears to have made their bed and now are trying to avoid lying in it.