Op-ed: Now is a Bad Time to Sacrifice Medical Progress for Government Pricing
The article below, co-authored by Peter Anastasiou, executive vice president and head of Lundbeck North America, Mark Reisenauer, president of Astellas Pharma US, Tim Walbert, chairman, president and CEO of Horizon Therapeutics, appeared in the Chicago Tribune (online) on October 6, 2021. It also ran in the paper’s October 7, 2021 print edition.
The joint op-ed discusses the biopharmaceutical industry’s commitment to improve affordability of innovative medicines in ways that do not jeopardize patient access, future research and development, and industry-supported jobs. The full article is reposted below with permission from the Chicago Tribune:
Americans want quality health care that is accessible and affordable. We share that conviction. In fact, it’s what we wake up every morning and go to bed every night thinking about. Some in Washington, D.C., are trying to force a false choice between affordable medicines and access to lifesaving, life-strengthening medical innovation.
These efforts must be rejected.
There is a push underway to drastically transform the way prescription medicines are priced in this country. A system in which insurers negotiate prices with manufacturers would be replaced by a paradigm in which the United States resembles other countries where governments dictate what medicines will cost and which treatments will be available to patients.
What has been lacking in this legislative effort is an honest, candid conversation with the American people regarding what they will be sacrificing if this change occurs.
The rapid development of vaccines, treatments, and tests to protect us from COVID-19 is just one example of biopharmaceutical innovation affecting our lives for the better. But there are scores more —and many are being developed by companies that call Illinois home.
In the last decade alone, we have seen revolutionary cancer treatments, novel treatments for neurological disorders, life-changing therapies for rare diseases, and transformative progress in combating chronic illnesses such as heart disease that have shortened lives for generations.
This progress happens because biopharmaceutical companies devote a major share of revenues —more than any other industry —to research and development and because investors are incentivized to direct funds toward emerging companies with exciting ideas. This investment not only extends and improves lives, it creates jobs. In Illinois alone, our industry supports nearly 247,000 jobs and contributes nearly $73 billion in economic output annually.
It is a fallacy to believe that politicians can impose price controls under the misleading description of government “negotiation” and leave this industry’s innovation and workforce unaffected. Research has shown that such a move will take more than $1.5 trillion from our industry and out of the laboratories where new treatments and vaccines are developed.
Illinois would be one of the most affected states. Separate analysis shows that the state would lose $17 billion in economic output and over 58,000 jobs. The impact also could extend to clinical trials conducted in Illinois by leading medical institutions. Nearly 1,100 clinical trials of potential medicines are taking place in the state, involving more than 26,700 participants, with investments at trial sites totaling $387.1 million.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected that nearly 60 fewer drugs will be developed. Other experts estimate a much greater impact. An analysis released recently by economists at the University of Chicago found that the price controls included in H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, would result in a 29% to 60% decrease in research and development from 2021-2039, meaning 167 to 342 fewer medicines would be approved for patients.
We all agree and support the idea of patients paying less for their medicines. Unlike what Congress is currently considering, there are ways to lower costs —and actually reduce the amount patients pay at the pharmacy counter—without stifling innovation and crushing jobs.
The Medicare Part D program, for example, has been a success in the 15 years since its inception, utilizing competition to achieve affordability and access to the majority of medicines physicians prescribe. Polling has consistently shown that beneficiaries approve of the program, and a Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed that a majority of Americans oppose government involvement in pricing if it leads to reduced research of new treatments or limited access to medications (which CBO has said will be the case). However, even a successful program can be enhanced.
We are committed to continued steps to improve affordability. We have long supported policies to cap out-of-pocket costs and allow patients with extensive medication needs to space those costs over time. Also, biopharmaceutical companies have been providing billions of dollars in rebates to pharmacy benefit managers—middlemen in the supply chain. Those savings are not getting to consumers. If the government wants to make a difference in affordability, it should finalize regulations to mandate that PBMs pass those savings to patients.
We are making unprecedented strides in medical science’s ability to protect, improve, and extend lives. Already, many diseases that were death sentences are manageable, even curable, conditions.
If politicians in D.C. insist on limiting progress, restricting access to medicines, and eliminating jobs in the life sciences sector —including in Illinois —then they should be honest with the American people and say so. But we reject the idea that innovation and access must be sacrificed to achieve affordability and savings for patients.
Mark Reisenauer is president of Astellas Pharma US. Tim Walbert is chairman, president and CEO of Horizon Therapeutics. Peter Anastasiou is executive vice president and head of at Lundbeck North America.