Writing for STAT News, Paul Hastings – CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics and Vice Chair of BIO’s Board – warns that bad actors in the sector, as well as shortsighted proposals in Washington DC, threaten to derail a coming wave of biomedical innovation.
Biomedical innovation is currently being jeopardized by a well-publicized minority of bad actors, drug companies that exorbitantly jack up prices on generic and branded drugs because they can and/or create frivolous patent extensions that game the system and prolong exclusivity for years or decades. Not all price increases are exorbitant, nor are all patent extensions frivolous, but the behavior of a few is laying waste to the reputation of the entire pharmaceutical industry at the worst possible time: as the genomic medicine revolution begins to deliver a new era of previously unimaginable cures.
While these bad actors do need to be called out and curtailed, many of the solutions being considered in Washington would have toxic side effects for patients relying on this pipeline of new medicines:
The administration is pivoting to ideas guaranteed to send biotech investors running for the exits: importing foreign drug prices and maybe even foreign drugs themselves. Benchmarking drug prices to single-payer health care systems in Europe and importing drugs made for foreign markets represent a startling embrace of socialism from a president running a reelection campaign premised on its evils. Every Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the last two decades — including Trump’s— has said that importing foreign drugs threatens the safety of patients and should not be certified.
This notion was echoed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Kenneth I. Moch, CEO of Cognition Therapeutics, who also sounded the alarms about policy proposals that threaten to stifle the tremendous progress made in the fight to cure Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s important to ensure that medicines are affordable. But there won’t be any breakthrough medicines at all if we adopt policies that dissuade investors from taking a chance on risky research projects.”
As Moch points out, science can beat this devastating disease but shortsighted policies could make it “virtually impossible” for research companies to attract investment dollars.
“These policies would prove disastrous for Alzheimer’s researchers, who already struggle to attract funding for their projects. From 2008 to 2017, U.S. biotech startups that research Alzheimer’s drummed up just one-16th as much venture capital funding as startups researching cancer, even though Alzheimer’s currently costs our health care system over twice as much as cancer.”
Hastings and Moch agree that providing affordable access to new treatments should be a top priority for policymakers in Washington, but it must be done in a way that encourages innovation.