The Alliance

The Weekly Dose | 01.18.19

January 18, 2019 1:27 pm

Failure is a prerequisite for success. If the drug-pricing debate on Capitol Hill and the administration is missing anything, it’s this idea. Student and innovator Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz flagged that 19 of 20 drugs fail (more below). It takes about a decade and $2.8 billion to bring a new drug to market. Policymakers must remember these facts.  


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As Evidence Mounts, President Acknowledges Drug Prices Falling. After months of criticizing pharmaceutical companies – and a week after saying “drug makers are not living up to their commitments” – President Donald Trump said drug prices are declining. The president may have oversimplified the actual pricing trends in his tweet, but his whipsaw commentary illustrates how anecdotes – not data – are driving this debate. Read the full blog post here.

Falling Cancer Rates And The International Pricing Model. The American Cancer Society (ACS) announced last week that cancer deaths in the United States fell 25 percent over the last 25 years. The ACS, however, also projected there will be 1.76 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States this year. Some of these patients eventually may benefit from treatments not on the market today, and lawmakers must consider that fact when debating drug prices, including the International Pricing Model. Read the full blog post here.

In case you missed them, here are some other recent posts on the APMI blog:

 - Price Controls Will Harm Public, Academic R&D

 - Price Controls Reduce Innovation

 - Patient Advocates Line Up Against ICER



Patient Groups Oppose Proposed Medicare Rules. STAT News reports a coalition of patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, have created an ad campaign urging the Trump administration to rethink new rules that will “put patients’ lives at risk.”

Another Report Shows Drug-Price Increases Slowing. POLITICO reported this morning that a new report from the Altarum Institute shows drug prices fell 0.6 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, the lowest year-over-year monthly rate in 46 years. The group called the overall rise in health prices “amazingly low.”

Breakthroughs Take Time. Don’t believe it? Check out this STAT News article, which explains that is has taken one company 37 years to bring to market a single drug to treat triple negative breast cancer, which so far hasn’t responded to therapy. Also of interest: Bloomberg Businessweek looks at the more than two-decade long quest to find an Alzheimer’s vaccine.

What’s At The Heart Of The Drive To Innovate? Noting in The Washington Post that “19 in 20 drugs fail” at the experimental level, Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz provides an engrossing, but heartbreaking, look at what compels scientists, doctors, and researchers to look for cures.

Should Industry Embrace The ICER QALY Model? Over at Forbes, healthcare analyst Joshua Cohen explores the problems with the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s cost-benefit evaluations.



Dr. Jamie Wells from the American Council on Science and Health encapsulates why the drug pricing debate demands nuance:

The pharmaceutical industry routinely gets demonized as the only villain in terms of drug pricing. The reality is this polarized good or pure versus evil is not effective and certainly does not paint an accurate or complete picture. Due to the innovative work of many in the field and the existence of the industry, our society has benefited from tremendous strides in the development of treatments for life-threatening conditions like Hepatitis C to immunotherapy for cancer.”


Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who has taken over the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, advises her colleagues to study drug pricing before jumping to conclusions:

I think we need to examine it first. How do we know what the answer to something is if we don't see the entirety of the issue that you want to do something about.”



Feb. 27, 8 a.m.: The Atlantic Health Care and the New Congress

Location: AJAX, 1011 4th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Topic: Legislative outlook for the 116th Congress

Agenda: Health care was the big winner of the midterm elections: Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah easily passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, and new governors in Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin all support expansion. And Democrats took control of the House of Representatives with a strong platform of backing the Affordable Care Act and its key provisions. While support for the law is strong across the country, the Trump administration continues its efforts to scale it back, and legal challenges remain. At the same time, leaders of both parties are exploring new efforts to lower the cost of care and prescription drugs.

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