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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is looking at “comprehensive” changes to the so-called 340B program as part of its work to lower prescription drug prices, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday, in a surprisingly direct speech before a ballroom full of representatives for the hospitals and clinics that have called for stronger protections for the program.

The federal drug discount program known as 340B has been the subject of an increasingly contentious debate that pits pharmaceutical companies, which want to rein in the federal drug discount program, against the participating hospitals that receive the discounts. And Azar made it clear Monday that he’s far more interested in the reforms the pharmaceutical industry has proposed — to limit and restrain the program — than the changes hospitals have pushed that would protect their participation.


“The current nature of 340B is such that it is quite possible for the program’s benefits to be diverted to unintended purposes, unrelated to supporting care for low-income patients,” Azar said, speaking to the summer conference for the 340B Coalition at a hotel in Northwest Washington. “So two kinds of reforms are necessary: greater transparency surrounding how these discounts are being used, and reforms to reduce the gap between discounted prices and the reimbursement provided, particularly by government programs.”

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