PhRMA Sues Arkansas for Meddling in the Federal 340B Drug Discount Program

October 7, 2021By Faraz Siddiqui

Last week, we blogged about a growing list of drug manufacturers that have refused to follow a 2010 guidance issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”), which permits 340B covered entities to contract with multiple pharmacies to dispense drugs to covered entity patients.  Because of concerns that these contract pharmacies, which include some of the largest chains in the U.S., are diverting drugs purchased at low 340B prices to non-340B patients, the companies are declining to sell drugs to 340B covered entities that use multiple contract pharmacies.

When HRSA threatened enforcement action and penalties, several companies sued the HHS in federal district courts in Maryland, Indiana, Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia to enjoin those enforcement actions (see list below). These lawsuits were filed between January and June of 2021.

On May 31, 2021, even as the contract pharmacy dispute was playing out in federal courts, the Arkansas legislature enacted Act 1103 of 2021, entitled the “340B Drug Pricing Nondiscrimination Act.” See Ark. Code Ann. § 23-92-604(c)(1), (2). Among other things, Act 1103 makes it unlawful for pharmaceutical manufacturers to prohibit pharmacies from contracting with a 340B covered entity by denying the pharmacy access to its drugs and makes it unlawful for pharmaceutical manufacturers to deny or prohibit 340B drug pricing for Arkansas-based community pharmacies that receive drugs on behalf of a 340B covered entity. Id.

On September 29, PhRMA sued Arkansas in federal court for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking to stay the enforcement of Act 1103 pending resolution of the 340B lawsuits in federal courts. This follows PhRMA’s July 2021 petition to the Arkansas Insurance Department, the agency charged with the implementation and enforcement of Act 1103, for a Declaratory Ruling relating to the state’s ability to enforce these two provisions. According to PhRMA, Arkansas effectively seeks to add Arkansas pharmacies as a sixteenth type of covered entity into a federal 340B statute that defines fifteen covered entities.

PhRMA seeks a declaration that pharmaceutical manufacturers need not offer price discounts to contract pharmacies in Arkansas because Ark. Code Ann.§ 23-92-604(c) is both preempted by the federal 340B statute (conflict and field preemption), and because it is unconstitutional under the dormant commerce clause (having the practical effect of regulating commerce occurring wholly outside that State’s borders). PhRMA also requests an injunction barring Defendants from implementing and enforcing Act 1103 against PhRMA and its members.

In response to PhRMA’s petition to the Arkansas Insurance Department, the Commissioner of the Department immediately stayed the enforcement of Act 1103 for 90 days, until October 26, 2021. It remains to be seen if the Department will renew the stay after it expires later this month.

[The currently pending lawsuits in federal court are AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals v. Becerra, No. 1:21-cv-00027-LPS, 2021 WL 2458063 (D. Del. Jan. 12, 2021); Eli Lilly & Co. v. Cochran, No. 1:21-cv-00081-SEB-MJD (S.D. Ind. Jan. 12, 2021); Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC v. HHS, No. 3:21-cv-00634-FLW-LHG (D.N.J. Jan. 12, 2021); Novo Nordisk Inc. v. HHS, No. 3:21-cv-00806-FLW-LHG (D.N.J. Jan. 15, 2021); Novartis Pharms. Corp. v. Becerra, No. 1:21-cv-01479 (D.D.C. May 31, 2021); United Therapeutics Corp. v. Espinosa, No. 1:21-cv-1686-DLF (D.D.C. June 23, 2021); PhRMA v. Cochran, No. 8:21-cv-99198-PWG (D. Md. Jan. 22, 2021).]