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Syringa board stands by decision to open pharmacy

Trustee Leta Strauss of Grangeville -- Syringa Pharmacy is “critical”

Syringa Hospital

Syringa Hospital

— “There are efforts out there to close down our [Syringa] pharmacy,” said Syringa board of trustees chair Al Bolden, White Bird, at the April 24 meeting.

At the beginning of its meeting, board members and administrator Abner King discussed the recent visit to the Idaho County Commissioners by Irwin Drug owner Chad Jungert.

“We have an entity we can trust to run it [340-B pharmacy]. The notion that we’re trying to put other local pharmacies out of business is utterly ridiculous,” said trustee Jim May of Kooskia.

Outside of the meeting, King explained the 340-B Drug Discount Program is a U.S. federal government program created in 1992 that requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations and covered entities at significantly reduced prices.

“The intent of the program is to allow covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services. These discounts only apply to purchases of certain covered outpatient drugs,” King explained. “Covered entities are allowed to dispense the discounted medication both to uninsured patients, and patients covered by Medicare or private insurance.”

King said in order to lower costs for our patients and improve health care in the community, Syringa must partner with a retail pharmacy to pass these discounts on to our patients. To this end, Syringa entered into 340-B partnerships with both Irwin Drug and Arnzen Drug 2013-2015.

“After Irwin and Arnzen withdrew from these partnerships, Syringa evaluated other retail pharmacy options. In September of 2016, Syringa entered into an agreement with Cardinal Health — an independent pharmaceutical company — which owns and operates an outpatient pharmacy which leases space from the hospital, located adjacent to our family practice clinic,” King said. “Without this arrangement the savings from these discounts would not be currently available to people of this community.”

Trustee Leta Strauss of Grangeville agreed the Syringa Pharmacy is “critical.”

“Especially for those who cannot afford their prescriptions,” she emphasized. “We have to keep fighting to keep this for our people. I think we will continue to struggle with this counter-narrative for a while.”

King interjected that “no taxpayer money is being used” for the Syringa Pharmacy endeavor.

CFO Betty Watson agreed that tax money is designated to be spent in a certain way and it’s not easy to channel it to other areas.

Cardinal Health did not respond to a request for information prior to press time.

“About half is to go for equipment and another large chunk goes toward liability insurance,” Watson added.

“The bottom line is, we would be negligent if we were not to offer 340-B to our patients,” May stated. “We are doing exactly what we should do.”


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