Looking Past 'Can vs. Can’t'

Fulfilling the State of Our Potential Requires Us to Look Past 'Can vs. Can’t'

01.28.14 | By

The great inventor and businessman Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right."

As President Obama prepares to deliver his sixth State of the Union message, thinking we can while facing the prospect of “can’t" has never been more real. Our industry and nation’s potential for new medical discoveries and advancements is what drives us. However, at the same time, our potential to fall behind other nations is equally as great. We cannot have it both ways, and must work toward specific and shared goals if we are to build on past achievements and shift the conversation from potential to progress.

In just the past year, PhRMA member companies invested approximately $50 billion in developing innovative new medicines to treat and cure diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In 2012 and 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved more than 50 new medicines – the largest number in 15 years. With more than 5,000 medicines in development globally that have the potential to help patients in the U.S. and around the world, continued success is promising.

Yet hurdles cannot be ignored: globally we face a series of challenges related to protecting intellectual property, which has always been a centerpiece of biopharmaceutical innovation. At home, we’re facing a severe shortage of skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. We’re quickly falling behind other countries that are hungry for the types of jobs and innovative advancements that have driven and differentiated America’s economy for more than two centuries.

These aren't private vs. public sector issues, but ones that require government, business, academia and patients to work together with the shared goals of improving and saving lives.

While we all hope for the future, caring for the most vulnerable must drive our efforts. Next year, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, a program that has fundamentally changed how we deliver high quality health care to millions of seniors and persons with disabilities. Allowing successful programs to do what they do best – providing treatments and services to patients suffering from or at risk of developing one or more chronic conditions – will not only reduce long-term costs, but create jobs and enable greater productivity across the nation. This is especially true of Medicare Part D, which has exceeded all expectations since its enactment more than a decade ago.

We’ve come a long way in turning potential into progress, but much remains to be done. Our growing understanding of human disease gives us the most promising platform ever to develop medicines that treat these conditions in new ways. Building on the advancements and incremental innovation of the past decade and beyond, PhRMA and its member companies look forward to a 2014 that brings new treatments to patients and helps them live longer, healthier lives. We couldn’t be more excited about hosting ongoing conversations on these and other topics, as well as providing new opportunities for you to share your perspectives along the way.

We wish the president and Representative McMorris Rodgers the best of luck tonight, and we look forward to taking action together to build a better future. From our standpoint, we not only can, we must.

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