Medical innovation demands policy support

Much of the strength of America’s private healthcare sector is based on the collaborative research ecosystem that exists among government agencies, academia and biopharmaceutical research companies. That collaboration should be promoted and expanded through a national policy agenda that supports medical innovation and America’s continued global leadership in the healthcare economy.
 
The time for a national policy of support is now. The future of U.S. biomedical innovation is at a crossroads. Budgets are stretched thin, it’s increasingly difficult to maintain infrastructures that match the pace and complexity of science, and competition for talent and jobs in a global economy is tight. Now more than ever, the decisions we make, the policies we pursue, the funds we allocate – all must keep the preservation and growth of innovation front and center. As I said during the panel, if we look across the broad spectrum of policies that support innovation, we see strong efforts at the state level and competition coming from abroad, but we seem to be lacking at a national level.
 
President Obama said in his State of the Union address: “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives.  It is how we make our living.”  We’re doing our part. Even in a challenged economy, biopharmaceutical companies invested a record $67.4 billion in research and development in 2010, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year. This is great news – for companies and their workers, for their communities and for patients awaiting potential breakthroughs.
 
It’s also promising news for the nation’s economy. The innovation sparked by biopharmaceutical investment is vital to sustaining our economy and getting Americans back to work. The sector’s reach is profound, employing 655,000 directly and supporting more than 3 million jobs overall.
 
That’s why many other countries are focusing on attracting pharmaceutical R&D to drive their own economic growth and healthier societies. Countries like China, Singapore and India, are aiming to undercut America’s global leadership in biopharmaceutical innovation.
 
In order to sustain American progress and global leadership in medical innovation, we must continue to nurture it. And it will take a joint commitment by all stakeholders – including the esteemed panelists with whom I spoke during the Research!America forum.
 
Keys to future progress include ensuring adequate appropriations for the FDA to support the guiding principles for the FDA – science-based decision-making, innovation and collaboration, transparency and accountability – which Commissioner Margaret Hamburg recently set forth. We also support reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) in 2012, the basic tenet of which is to ensure thorough new drug reviews accomplished in an efficient, predictable and well-coordinated way, providing for timely patient access to safe and effective medicines.
 
Similarly, we believe NIH should be funded at a level commensurate with the tremendous potential and importance of basic research. Government-supported basic research is one key to how we collectively progress in discovering novel compounds for addressing patients’ unmet medical needs.
 
But treating disease isn’t enough. Too often we forget that part of the CDC’s focus – and name – is prevention (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Chronic disease has a devastating impact on our people and our economy. Given the cost of treating chronic disease – which accounts for three-quarters of our health care spending – we must increase our commitment to prevention, early intervention, and better disease management to ensure a healthier, more productive nation over the long term.  That’s why America’s biopharmaceutical companies are active participants in coalitions such as the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.
 
And it’s why we must foster a national policy agenda that puts medical innovation and patients first. The industry can’t do it alone, but neither can the government. We need policies that better facilitate the kind of groundbreaking research necessary to treat the illnesses that attack Americans – and the economy – every day. As Commissioner Hamburg said during the Research!America panel, such pro-innovation policies would be for the common good.
 
For the sake of the American economy and lifesaving cures alike, we urge renewed cooperation and commitment to promoting research and development in the medical industry. Medical innovation has gotten us this far. And it will carry us even further.
 
John J. Castellani is president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

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