A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kyle Keeney: Developing new cures is expensive; take this into account when talking about drug prices

The cost of medicines we depend on for our health has been a major topic of public debate. Biopharmaceutical innovation is reshaping the fight against chronic disease and saving lives, but all too often this is missing from the debate. Developing new cures is expensive; but the cost of not developing them is even higher. 
The Kentucky Life Science Council was created to support the research and innovation taking place at biopharmaceutical companies and universities across Kentucky.  Our members work every day to find cures for the chronic conditions that affect our neighbors, friends and family members.  We also advocate for patient-centered policies that will ensure access to life-saving treatments.

As Congress takes up important policy measures that will impact patient access to medications, we encourage members to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. This is particularly true when it comes to maintaining America’s leadership position in biopharmaceutical innovation. We simply cannot afford to lose the cures of tomorrow.
We are specifically concerned about how recent legislative proposals would introduce international reference pricing and foreign price controls as a strategy to reduce prescription drug costs. This threatens patient access and choice, while ceding America’s global leadership in biomedical innovation.

Life science companies provide quality jobs across Kentucky in research, manufacturing and logistics. More than 14,000 people work in the life sciences at 1,200 different companies. The research at our major universities brings more than $188 million dollars to help fund the discovery of cures for conditions once thought uncurable. The future of Kentucky’s economy should be focused on innovation, and biopharmaceutical companies are helping to lead the way.
We applaud efforts to address unaffordable out-of-pocket costs for prescription medications. This is a critical challenge for our nation, and our members’ companies are committed to being part of the solution, while also maintaining focus on future innovation and new cures.
However, injecting government price controls and foreign reference pricing into our country’s private market is not the answer. These proposals would broadly impact American companies investing in future innovations, as well as those exploring research for new cures. And, it could be devastating for patients hoping for medicines to treat serious, life-threatening diseases.
Every year, new treatments are developed for patients living with a terminal diagnosis. For them, time is critical and the promise of innovation brings them hope.
Getting a treatment option to market for a Metastatic Breast Cancer patient a year early can literally mean the difference between life and death. For example, 96 percent of new cancer drugs are available in the U.S., at an average delay of three months. By comparison, Japanese patients have access to 50% of new medicines and wait on average 23 months. German and Canadian patients wait four times longer; French patients wait six times longer. None of these countries even approach the access to new therapies available to American patients.

Implementing foreign price controls in the United States threatens patient choice and access to the full range of life-saving therapies we depend upon. The United States is a leader in biomedical innovation, and we are working to bring new treatment options to patients faster than ever before.  Now is the time to push forward, not fall back.
With this in mind, we urge Kentucky’s elected leaders in Congress to reject any efforts that would undermine innovation through international reference pricing or other forms of price controls. Patients deserve access to and choice of the lifesaving therapies of today and tomorrow.
Kyle Keeney is the President and CEO of the Kentucky Life Science Council.

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