The AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles on Tuesday staged a socially distant protest at Amgen headquarters in Thousand Oaks in response to the biotech giant’s refusal to sell orphan drugs to nonprofit entities at a reduced price.

Orphan drugs treat rare medical conditions for a small number of people –  production wouldn’t be profitable for companies like Amgen without government assistance.


Nonprofit providers receive a discount for these drugs, according to the 340B Drug Discount Program, a federal initiative designed to reach more patients and provide comprehensive services. But Amgen joined eight other companies in refusing to offer reduced pricing, the foundation said.


“At a time when the U.S. health system is under tremendous stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, this enormously wealthy drug company has decided to make it worse,” John Hassell, national director of advocacy for AHF, said in a statement. “AHF calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to do its job and stop this callous drug industry attack on the U.S. health care safety net. Nonprofit health care entities depend on savings from the 340B Drug Discount Program to provide essential lifesaving services to needy under-insured patients all over the country. “


“While Amgen will no longer offer voluntary discounts on our orphan designated drugs to rural referral centers, sole community hospitals, critical access hospitals, and free-standing cancer hospitals (commonly referred to as ACA-expansion entities) effective Jan. 1, 2021, we are engaging with customers in an appropriate and compliant way to maintain access to our orphan designated products provided at these ACA-expansion entities,” the company said in a statement emailed to the Business Journal.


In its statement, Amgen said that the 340B program does not include discounts for orphan drugs purchased by ACA-expansion entities, although manufacturers are free to offer discounts voluntarily. “Amgen had been providing ‘340B-like’ discounts to these entities on our orphan-designated products on a voluntary basis and will make this change as part of a regular review. We remain fully compliant with HRSA guidance on this topic,” according to the company.


Shares of Amgen (AMGN) closed Tuesday down $6.32, or 2.8 percent, to $220.99 on the Nasdaq.