Opioid abuse and addiction is one of the worst public health crises America has ever faced. The solution, however, has never been clearer: innovation can help get our nation back on track. In an op-ed published today by Morning Consult, Dr. Jeremy Levin, Chairman and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics outlines three steps toward a solution to combating this devastating public health crisis – and it depends on America’s biopharmaceutical community.
We need better science. As a nation, we first must understand the foundations of pain and addiction, and government entities like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can help. By working with various stakeholders, NIH has the ability to advance basic research allowing for patients and providers to better understand how to safely treat and manage pain. As Dr. Levin explains:
“The truth is, our understanding of the biology underlying pain and addiction is not as advanced as our understanding of other diseases, such as cancer or heart disease. As a result, doctors often do not have the information needed to make the best decisions for their patients.”
This point reinforces new data from BIO published this week showing that while promising treatments are under development, there isn’t the same level of energy and resources committed to pain and addiction as there are for other diseases that inflict a heavy toll on patients and society. For example, the oncology pipeline currently has 2,671 total active clinical programs – that’s more than 10 times the number found in the pain pipeline (220).
Patients need more choices. Dr. Levin points out that we must break down the barriers preventing patients from obtaining less-addictive, safer alternatives to managing pain and addiction.
“[P]atients need access to novel and safer options to treat pain and addiction. … Only through adequate health insurance coverage and the ability to communicate the value of these new medicines will we ensure providers can deliver patients the right treatment, at the right time and with the right support, without stigma.”
As we’ve pointed out before, restrictive insurance coverage and reimbursement policies are standing between patients and safer pain and addiction treatments. In addition, Levin notes that by increasing expertise and resources within the Food and Drug Administration, and by enhancing and improving the ability to utilize expedited approval pathways, we can ensure patients are getting the novel treatments they need and deserve.
We need more investments. If we’re going to innovate our way out of America’s opioid crisis, we must encourage investments for critical next-generation alternatives that patients are depending on. Currently, the industry-wide pain pipeline consists of 215 clinical-stage drug programs which is extremely small when compared to the 2,600 medicines in the pipeline to treat cancer. Dr. Levin adds:
“[W]e need more investments in research and development to find innovative pain and addiction medicines. Both the public and private sectors have neglected this area of research for too long. Over the last 10 years, there has been 17 times more venture investment in oncology R&D than pain management programs; and there has been even fewer investments in novel addiction treatments.”
America can beat the opioid crisis but it’s going to take a dose of innovation. Read Dr. Levin’s full op-ed here.