Broadening the Conversation About Drug Pricing

The New York Times editorial board recently observed:

“We shouldn’t be surprised by any biotech’s failure. We should expect it. Biotechs by their nature offer the promise of disruptive breakthroughs and discoveries, but they’re mostly all-in propositions, based on one molecule or one test. Fail in a Phase III clinical trial — and a majority do — and you’re finished. It’s a moonshot business; companies are going to blow up.”

When biotech companies do secure approval for a new cure or treatment, they can produce life-changing results. But this reality is almost never reflected in the public debate about drug pricing. Concerns about the affordability of medicines are understandable. Access to biotech therapies can mean the difference between life and death. It’s not enough to develop new cures and treatments; they must be affordable for patients. Prescription drug costs do matter.

Yet much of the current dialogue about drug pricing takes place in a vacuum. The current debate usually looks at only one dimension of the issue – the price of particular drugs. At the same time, we ignore other dimensions that are equally important – what it takes to sustain the risky innovation ecosystem that led to those few successful treatments and the value that system provides to patients and society as a whole.

As a society, we need to realize the value, challenges, and fragility of the biotech industry. We need to recognize that calls for government price controls or demands for more burdensome regulatory requirements will further raise the risk and cost of biomedical innovation, making drug discovery even less attractive to investors and daunting for entrepreneurs to navigate.

Everyone who works in the biotech industry has a stake in the outcome of the current political debate on drug pricing. Nothing can stop the science of biotechnology; the only thing that can stop us is bad policy decisions in Washington and state capitals that starve our companies of the capital that successful biotech innovation requires.

I invite you to join the conversation on value, pricing, and innovation at BIO 2018 in Boston, June 4-7. Below are a few sessions that might be of interest. If you haven’t yet registered, I encourage you to do so.