Following the recent release of new Program Notices regarding the Group Purchase Organization (GPO) prohibition and Medicaid Exclusion File, 340B participating entities should review their 340B program policies and procedures to ensure compliance with new and clarified guidance regarding GPO purchasing and dispensing of 340B drugs to Medicaid patients.

On February 7, 2013, the Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Pharmacy Affairs (OPA) issued new Program Notices  related to the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) prohibition and the Medicaid Exclusion File (the Program Notice).

GPO Prohibition

Disproportionate Share Hospitals, children’s hospitals and freestanding cancer hospitals that participate in the 340B program are prohibited from purchasing “covered outpatient drugs” through a GPO or other group purchasing arrangement.  Covered outpatient drugs include most outpatient drugs obtained by written prescription, with the exception of vaccines and certain drugs classified as devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Prior to the release of the new Program Notice, OPA had provided little guidance regarding the scope and enforcement of the GPO prohibition.  The Program Notice appears to have resulted from OPA concern that certain hospitals may have been routinely using outpatient GPO accounts when unable to purchase drugs at 340B prices.  With the Program Notice, OPA has now formally established policies regarding the application of the GPO prohibition to drug shortages, outpatient clinics and virtual inventory/replenishment purchasing models.

With the new Program Notice, and accompanying FAQs released subsequent to the publication of the Program Notice, OPA advises that the GPO prohibition applies even when a covered outpatient drug is not available at the 340B price due to a manufacturer shortage.  In such cases, hospitals are instructed to notify OPA of the issue, but may not obtain the drug through a GPO.

The Program Notice also provides that the GPO prohibition does not extend to certain off-site outpatient clinics.  A hospital may use a GPO to purchase covered outpatient drugs for an off-site outpatient clinic if all of the following requirements are met:

  • The off-site outpatient clinic is located at a different physical address than the hospital
  • The off-site outpatient clinic is not registered in the OPA 340B database as participating in the 340B program
  • Covered outpatient drugs for the off-site outpatient clinic are purchased through a separate pharmacy wholesaler account than the hospital
  • The hospital maintains records demonstrating that drugs purchased through a GPO for the off-site outpatient clinic are not utilized by or transferred to the hospital or any off-site outpatient location registered in the OPA 340B database

Further, OPA establishes that a hospital may not use a GPO to purchase covered outpatient drugs for dispensing to patients through a contract pharmacy.  This guidance does not prohibit a contract pharmacy that is not owned by a hospital (which is the entity that would be subject to the GPO prohibition) from accessing GPO pricing through its own account, so long as the hospital is not involved in the pharmacy-GPO arrangement and does not benefit from the pharmacy’s GPO pricing.

Hospitals, including their outpatient sites, subject to the GPO prohibition must discontinue GPO purchasing of covered outpatient drugs before the first day of their respective 340B program eligibility, although each may continue to dispense previously purchased GPO inventory.  Those hospitals that maintain pharmacy inventory through a virtual inventory/replenishment model, in which 340B drugs are purchased based on prior dispensing to 340B-eligible patients, are also prohibited from using a GPO to purchase covered outpatient drugs.  OPA has advised that hospitals utilizing a replenishment model in “mixed use” (inpatient and outpatient) pharmacies must now account for (“accumulate”) dispensed drugs for inventory replenishment as either inpatient, 340B-eligible or outpatient non-340B.  Drugs accumulated for outpatient non-340B replenishment may only be purchased through a non-340B, non-GPO account.  In addition, a hospital may not purchase drugs on a 340B account until the 340B-eligible accumulator reaches a full package size and/or minimum order quantity.  The result is that such drugs typically must be purchased at wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) or prices individually negotiated between the hospital and manufacturer.

The new Program Notice advises that hospitals subject to the GPO prohibition that are found in violation of the prohibition may be immediately removed from the 340B program and subject to repayment to manufacturers for the period of non-compliance.  However, in a separate FAQ on the OPA website, OPA advises that it will not enforce the GPO prohibition until after April 7, 2013.  Those hospitals that are unable to meet the compliance deadline are advised to either notify OPA of non-compliance and submit a corrective action plan (such submissions will be handled on a case-by-case basis) or disenroll either the entire hospital or, if applicable, non-compliant off-campus locations, from the 340B program.

Medicaid Exclusion File

Drug manufacturers are not required to provide a 340B discount and Medicaid rebate on the same drug.  In order to prevent these “duplicate discounts,” OPA maintains the Medicaid Exclusion File.  This database lists all 340B participating entities (covered entities) and indicates whether the covered entity has elected to dispense 340B drugs to Medicaid patients (carve-in) or obtain drugs for Medicaid patients at non-340B pricing (carve-out).  Covered entities that have elected to carve-in are listed in the Medicaid Exclusion File by Medicaid billing number. 

State Medicaid programs are instructed to access the Medicaid Exclusion File to ensure they do not seek manufacturer rebates from those covered entities that are listed in the database.  In the Program Notice, OPA reminds states to use the Medicaid Exclusion File to prevent duplicate discounts and to report any discrepancies between provider billing practices and the information in the database to OPA. 

The Program Notice advises covered entities of a change in OPA policy regarding the timing of changes to a covered entity’s decision to carve-in or carve-out.  While changes previously could be made at any time, OPA will now only permit changes on a quarterly basis.  OPA also clarifies that a covered entity may choose to carve-in or carve-out for a subset of 340B enrolled locations, but if it does so, must obtain a separate Medicaid provider number for any eligible locations that carve-in.  Covered entities are also reminded that they must ensure their information is accurately reflected in the Medicaid Exclusion File and that they may be subject to manufacturer repayment if the database reflects that the covered entity opted to carve-out, but the covered entity has been dispensing 340B drugs to Medicaid patients. 

Next Steps

340B participating hospitals subject to the GPO exclusion should review their current operations and policies and procedures to evaluate compliance with the guidance released in the new Program Notice and FAQs, with particular attention to use of GPO purchasing to obtain covered outpatient drugs that are not available at 340B pricing and for replenishment inventory.  As necessary, hospitals should cease purchasing covered outpatient drugs through a GPO and begin revising purchasing procedures to ensure compliance by April 8, 2013. 

Hospitals should also evaluate current policies regarding use of GPOs at off-site outpatient clinics not registered in the OPA 340B database to determine whether such locations may be eligible to purchase covered outpatient drugs through a GPO.  Previously, many such off-site outpatient clinics were restricted to only purchasing at WAC pricing due to the GPO exclusion.  The new Program Notice makes clear that, so long as purchasing is conducted through a separate pharmacy wholesaler account (not the hospital’s), hospitals subject to the GPO exclusion can use a GPO to purchase drugs for off-campus outpatient clinics that are not registered in the OPA 340B database.  Therefore, outpatient sites now have the flexibility to purchase drugs through a GPO for those clinics that are not yet eligible for 340B enrollment (e.g., they have not yet appeared on a filed Medicare cost report) and to opt-out of enrolling off-site outpatient clinic sites if certain locations would see greater benefit from GPO purchasing than from 340B participation.  Further, hospitals may wish to explore opportunities for selective enrollment of off-site outpatient locations to ensure patient access to certain drugs, such as intravenous immunoglobulin, that have historically been difficult to obtain at 340B pricing and cost-prohibitive to obtain at WAC.

All covered entities should review their information in the Medicaid Exclusion File to ensure the database reflects current Medicaid billing practices and be aware that any changes will only be effective as of the next quarter beginning January 1, April 1, July 1 or October 1.  Covered entities should also use this opportunity to review state Medicaid program requirements regarding carve-in or carve-out restrictions and billing rules related to 340B drugs.