As we begin a new decade, and resume the debate in Washington and statehouses around health care and drug costs, we’ll let this letter from biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry leaders, academia, and life science investors speak itself about what is at stake in this discussion. Posted in STAT News, the signatories say:
“[A]t this pivotal moment in the history of our industry, we are at the dawn of a golden age of medicine. We will soon have the ability to treat and cure diseases that have long been untreatable and incurable. Our industry is unique. We save, extend, and enhance lives by alleviating the scourge of disease. Our mission is to change the course of each individual’s life for the better. To achieve this, we acknowledge that we have a moral obligation to develop the best medicines and ensure that every person who may benefit has access to them.”
The letter then outlines new principles to ensure patient access to life-saving medication, including a pledge that “pricing of our medicines at launch will reflect innovation and value to patients, and we commit to achieve broad patient access.”
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TWEETS OF THE WEEK
- From 2011-18, here's how countries with #pricecontrols faired: Australia had access to 36% of new drugs, and Canadians just 46%. It's a fact: price controls restrict access to life-saving #innovation. Is that a tradeoff Americans are ready to make. https://bit.ly/2FC29gK Click here to RT.
- Total spending on R&D among the top 15 largest #drug companies has increased by 32% in the past five years. Former FDA Commissioner @SGottliebFDA makes a convincing case that H.R. 3 will "punish drugmakers for taking risks" in today's @WSJ. https://on.wsj.com/2T9lUnQ Click here to RT.
- Last week, @POTUS released a proposal for allowing #drugimportation. Whether it be negligible price benefits, upsetting trade partners, or serious concerns over #patient safety, the arguments against importation are too grave to overlook. https://politi.co/36GgJzx Click here to RT.
THE STORIES THAT DIDN’T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION
Check out and share on Twitter our latest blog posts:
- A Look At Innovation Over the Last Decade. In addition to the new year stories about drug pricing, we noticed several looks back at innovation over the last year and since 2010. PCMag, Inc., and Wired all focused on tech, but, even before we rang in 2020, a few outlets were discussing the most impactful medical innovations of the last 10 years. With U.S. pharmaceutical companies investing nearly $100 billion annually in research and development, our hope for the new year is that Washington policymakers don’t do anything that could disrupt this outstanding record of innovation. Click here to read the full blog post.
- Four Reports, Same Conclusion: Americans Aren’t Paying More For Drugs. In a blog post last month, we tried to separate drug myths from drug facts. We explain, for example, that most Americans are not drowning in drug costs. In fact, according to IQVIA, only 8.8 percent of Americans pay more than $500 a year for their medication. Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.
- Addressing Common Myths About Private Sector R&D. Drug innovation is like running a marathon: With taxpayer money in hand, the National Institutes of Health runs the first (very important) mile, but “you still have 25.2 miles to go, and each mile gets more difficult.” Click here to read the full blog post. Share on Twitter here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Cancer Researcher: “Private Sector Investment Helps Americans Live Longer.” Texas cancer research Nina Nguyen had a must-read in the Argus Observer this week that explains how the private sector drives research and development. She says: “Here’s how drug development usually works. Scientists at American universities rely on funding from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research into the human body and the causes of illness. Most of the time this research won’t produce anything more than an academic paper. But occasionally, these scientists discover a potential avenue to a new drug. In those rare instances, private biotech firms step in. These firms rely on venture capital and other investments to conduct early experiments and bring their compounds through animal and human trials. This process takes between 10 and 15 years and costs more than $2 billion. The U.S. biopharmaceutical industry spent $90 billion on research and development in 2016. That’s more than double the NIH’s entire annual budget.”
- If Lawmakers Want To Tackle Rising Health Costs, They Should Look To Hospitals. Before the holiday, the New York Post editorial board wrote: “It’s perfectly fine for politicians to look at ways to keep prescription drugs affordable. But why does the bigger problem of soaring hospital bills get so little notice? … Hospitals represent a third of total U.S. health-care spending, drugs just a tenth. And a new analysis in the journal Health Affairs shows that over the past four years, hospital spending jumped 15.2 percent while retail prescription-drug spending rose just 5.7 percent.”
- R. 3, Price Controls, And ICER Model Would Cause Innovation, Including Rare Disease Research, To “Grind To A Halt.” The Southern Chester County Weeklies published a column by Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease Chair Kenneth Thorpe in which Thorpe explains: “The nonprofit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review analyzes and rates the cost-effectiveness of new drugs. ICER wants insurers and government programs to use these ratings to determine which medicines are worth covering.” Thorpe says: “This approach probably would cut short-term spending – but it’d also endanger patients, especially those with rare diseases that afflict fewer than 200,000 people. Millions of Americans could lose access to life-enhancing drugs. And research into rare disease treatments would grind to a halt.” In Commonwealth Magazine, meanwhile, Pioneer Institute Visiting Fellow Dr. William Smith explores how a Massachusetts bill would impact rare disease research while at the Phoenixville News Michelle Flowers, presidentof the Oncology Managers of Florida, looks at how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislation, H.R. 3, will impact innovation. (A column by Independent Institute Policy Fellow Dr. Ronald Trowbridge in The Hill and one by PureTech Health’s John LaMattina in the Orlando Sentinel have as more on the impact H.R. 3 will have on innovation.)
- Colorado College Professor: State Importation Programs Are Risky (And A Federal Plan Is Just As Problematic). While CBS News said experts are “not optimistic” about a federal importation plan, writing at IPWatchdog, Colorado College Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Kristina Lybecker says: “Pharmaceutical importation schemes would endanger patient safety without saving consumers money. Moreover, the importation of Canadian price controls would undermine biopharmaceutical innovation. Pharmaceutical importation plans are politically attractive, but the numbers demonstrate that they fail to deliver cost savings when implemented safely.” The American Pharmacists Association has more on the safety of importation programs while Consumer Action for a Strong Economy says “importation threatens American patients.”
- New Hope For Pancreatic Cancer Patients. Reuters reports: “AstraZeneca and Merck’s ovarian cancer drug Lynparza has received U.S. regulatory approval for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer. … The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug’s use as a first-line maintenance therapy for patients with BRCA gene mutations whose cancer had spread beyond the pancreas and whose tumors did not worsen after chemotherapy of at least 16 weeks.” Julie Fleshman, chief executive officer of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, told Reuters, “Metastatic pancreatic cancer patients have been waiting a long time for new therapy options for their devastating disease.”
- New Hope For Migraine Sufferers. CNBC reports: “Migraine sufferers now have a new tool in their arsenal to fight the debilitating headaches with federal approval of Allergan’s first oral medication proven to ease migraine symptoms within two hours — even after they’ve started. The Food and Drug Administration approved Ubrelvy, the company’s ubrogepant treatment.” Dr. Billy Dunn, acting director of the Office of Neuroscience in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, “Ubrelvy represents an important new option for the acute treatment of migraine in adults, as it is the first drug in its class approved for this indication.”
QUOTATIONS OF THE (LAST FEW) WEEKS
In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, Josh Krisinger, who has Crohn’s disease, writes:
“While America’s pharmaceutical industry needs reform and increased competition, … capping prices shouldn’t be the first step or the primary tool to drive change. Without an advanced drug like Humira, my quality of life might be dramatically worsened. And Humira might never have made it to the pharmacy’s shelves without the latter part of the ‘high risk, high reward’ tradeoff so common to pharmaceuticals. That’s what drives innovation.”
Writing about the House and Senate drug pricing bills at WNOV860, New York City-based patient advocate Mary Stabile writes:
“Some lawmakers acknowledge their plans would slash private research budgets. To offset that drop, they hope to reallocate some of the government’s savings to the National Institutes of Health. But even with this new funding, the NIH won’t be able to replicate the work of scientists at private-sector research companies. The NIH mostly conducts early-stage research into specific diseases and molecules. It lacks the expertise, infrastructure, and funding to build on this research and develop treatments. … By stifling this research, the bills would endanger patients’ health and lives. Let’s hope lawmakers reconsider before they snuff out patients’ hopes for a brighter, healthier future.”