We previously wrote about the actions Congress is taking to "combat rising prescription drug prices," and the rhetoric politicians of all stripes are using in an attempt to force public opinion on their side. HHS has announced a pharmaceutical pricing forum set for November 20, Congress has committees on both sides working toward a "solution," and Hillary Clinton has said that if she is elected president, she would "demand a stop to excessive profiteering and marketing" by the drug industry.
Often left out those discussions includes the value of medications, PhRMA has recently released a forty-deck slideshow that addresses the issue of the cost of pharmaceutical drugs in great detail. It is important that we understand in setting the pharmaceutical industry record straight, when speaking with both laypeople and the media. The slides help to explain how the goals of the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed with bipartisan support, cannot be reached without assistance and participation from biopharmaceutical companies and their allies.
The 21st Century Cures Act was lauded by some as being an "encouraging show of bipartisanship ... designed to speed the process from scientific discovery to health treatments and cures for people who need them." The Act "expands funding for the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration to support promising new research and approval of new therapies." The legislation is also forward-looking in that it recognizes the outstanding potential of new scientific concepts such as personalized medicine and medical applications.
With such a promising piece of legislation passed on a bipartisan basis just over a year ago, one might wonder why politicians are all of a sudden antagonizing the pharmaceutical industry, instead of continuing to work with it. While public opinion does ebb and flow, it is important for the industry to get the facts out there so that everyone can understand that pharmaceutical companies are not their enemies, but instead their allies in health.
It is time we focus on the broad range of benefits the developments in the pharmaceutical industry have brought health care patients. For example, in the last 100 years, medicines have helped raise the average United States life expectancy from 47 years to 78 years; death rates for HIV/AIDS and cancer have fallen 85 percent, and nearly 22 percent since their peaks in 1995 and 1991; and new hepatitis C therapies have cure rates of more than 90 percent. Those numbers are astounding and just a small glimpse into the benefits the pharmaceutical industry provides the health care system as a whole.
There are more than 7,000 medicines that are currently in development around the world. Just to name a few, there are currently over 1800 medicines in development for cancer; over 1250 medicines in development for infectious diseases; and over 1300 medicines in development for neurological disorders.
The presentation highlights how adherence to medicines lowers total health spending for chronically ill patients, stating that the U.S. healthcare system could save $213 billion per year if medicines are used properly to avoid expensive hospitalization and emergency room visits. The biggest savings are realized for congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia.
It is important in this debate that we go a step further and highlights the fact that that the cost of disease could bankrupt the United States health care system if it weren't for new and developing medicines. There is an estimated $22.4 billion savings to Medicare if adherence to congestive heart failure medications is improved and reaches recommended levels.
There is a compelling argument to be made that the biopharmaceuticals industry is an important force in the U.S. economy, supporting 3.4 million jobs across the country in 2011. Often overlooked this industry sector is the single largest funder of business research and development in the United States and the most R&D intensive industry.
In a similar vein, is the importance clinical trials are to the US economy with $25 billion in economic activity that stems from industry-sponsored clinical trials throughout all fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Even though the cost of medical procedures continue to rise, cost containment is built into the drug pricing life cycle. For example, the cost of percutaneous coronary angioplasty rose from $47,962 in 2005 to $79,391 in 2013, while the cost of Atorvastin 10 mg decreased from $2.13 in 2005 to $0.15 in 2014. Additionally, nearly nine out of 10 U.S. prescriptions are filled with lower-cost generic drugs.
There is often unsung economic realities of the drug development process, a new medicine takes at least 10 years on average, costs roughly $2.6 billion and results in fewer than 12 percent of the drugs that make it into Phase I clinical trials being approved by the FDA. Often the political rhetoric out shadows the other financial benefits when it comes to targeting healthcare costs, pharmaceutical companies are being singled out, despite the statistics cited here.
By no means are all the pharmaceutical companies going about pricing in an ethical manor, especially those pirate companies with no interest in the drug development process, but by and large researched based companies are working to bring about cures that save lives. These slides are recommended as a simple review and reminder about how much good the pharmaceutical industry brings to the world: a strong dose of reality, as compared to the constant barrage of negative publicity.