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Activists denounce Congressman Scott Peters for sponsoring bill to gut drug discounts

Notably, there is also no mention or press release about H.R. 4710 on the congressman’s official website.
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According to a press release sent out on Thursday, December 28, a group of 25 to 35 HIV/AIDS and drug pricing advocates, including many from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), staged a protest and picket line in front of the district office of San Diego Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA, 52nd District) to denounce and protest his recent introduction of federal legislation that would severely curtail nonprofit hospitals’ participation in a federally-administered drug discount program that costs the government and taxpayers nothing, and which was specifically created to extend the lifeline of care and services that safety net hospitals and providers are able to deliver. Peters, a San Diego Democrat, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN).

Peters, who has served in Congress since 2013, has taken more than $100,000 in contributions from the drug industry and biotech companies during his tenure.

He introduced the bill, (H.R. 4710) which stops additional hospitals from participating in the 340B drug pricing discount program, on the Friday before Christmas with little public notice or input.

The press release further details what the bill entials: 

“Congressman Peters has taken well over $100,000 from pharma and biotech companies during his tenure in Congress, placing drug company profits over the health and well-being of his own constituents,” said Tracy Jones, National Director of Advocacy Campaigns for AHF.

“His bill will make it much harder for nonprofit hospitals to participate in a program that provides more care—and costs the federal government nothing—in order to make his pharma donors and friends richer. Peters’ bill strangles hospitals with useless red tape, which will undoubtedly mean they will use the program less. Peters all but introduced this bill under cover of darkness on the Friday right before the Christmas holiday. He's the Grinch who gave America a lump of coal, and drug companies, even more, money on top of their fat tax cut.”

Notably, there is also no mention or press release about H.R. 4710 on the congressman’s official website.

“Normally, when Members of Congress introduce bills, they trumpet the accomplishment in order to grab headlines and demonstrate to the public and their constituents that they are getting things done. Congressman Peters' webpage features a lot of that,” said Tom Myers, General Counsel and Chief of Public Affairs for AHF. “However, there is nothing anywhere on his website for this bill, which suggests he is not proud of it. He likely knows it is bad policy and will not be popular, and that people will recognize that he is doing the bidding of pharma.”

About the 340B Program

The 340B program was enacted by Congress as part of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 to allow designated safety net medical providers, called “covered entities”, to purchase prescription outpatient drugs directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers at discounted prices.  As a discount program, 340B costs federal taxpayers and the government nothing.  Congress itself expressed that the goal of the program is “to enable [covered entities] to stretch scarce Federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services."

Bill to Affect Pomerado Hospital & Palomar Health (Poway, CA) in Congressman’s District

Peters' bill will adversely impact Pomerado Hospital (part of Palomar Health) in Poway, CA, in the congressman’s district. According to Palomar Health’s website, “Today, Palomar Health is the largest health care district serving communities in an 850-square-mile area and a trauma center that covers more than 2,200 square miles of South Riverside and North San Diego Counties. In addition to three hospitals, Palomar Health offers home health care, surgery, skilled nursing, ambulatory care, behavioral health services, wound care, and community health education programs”

“Health care districts are public entities that provide community-based health care services to residents throughout the state of California. They respond to the needs in their District by providing a range of services, which may include a hospital, clinic, skilled nursing facility or emergency medical services; as well as education and wellness programs. Each of California’s Health Care Districts is governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees who are directly accountable to the communities they serve.”

“The results of the 340B program speak for themselves,” added AHF’s Myers. “And the truth about the 340B program is very different than the story told by the pharmaceutical industry and their allies like Congressman Peters.”

City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez also wrote a letter to Peters' office imploring the congressman to withdraw his support of this bill which states in part: 

"I have been contacted by many health advocates in the LGBTQ community who are [like myself] deeply concerned for many of our most vulnerable citizens."

You can read the full letter in the inset at left.