Research in Your Backyard May Soon Be in Latin America

Research in Your Backyard May Soon Be in Latin America

05.22.13 | By Jeff Trewhitt

In Colombia, unprecedented price controls in the private market are being contemplated and such policies – a threat to continued research and development of new medicines – are already in effect in El Salvador and also under consideration elsewhere in the region. 

Far too often in Latin America, we’re smeared with the negative “Big Pharma” label and too many policymakers have the perception that we don’t have a very positive impact in their countries.

Members of PhRMA’s Latin America Regional Committee are determined to set the record straight and improve understanding of the industry and its world-leading development of new medicines.  For me, last week, that meant a trip to Mexico City to discuss our 1.5-year-old “Research in Your Backyard” program and its applicability to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American nations.

The fact is, our companies are conducting new medicine trials in these countries in collaboration with local research institutions and it’s important for officials there to grasp the value of this vitally important research work.

(As an aside, it was not all work and no play.  Though I heeded the warning about not venturing far from the hotel, I found that the best place to unwind at the end of the day was with the expats and business executives, both Mexican and American, who ate and drank at the bar of Lipp’s French Bistro, a Mexico City version of Cheers.  In between bites of scrumptious filet and pommes frites, they debated everything from baseball to soccer to which band to see over the weekend). 

To justify such fun and to earn my keep, during the day I provided an overview of “Research in Your Backyard,” stressing the value of letting key stakeholders know how clinical trials of new medicines benefit patients, the economy and the advance of science and patient care.

Though the “Research in Your Backyard” reports profile company-funded clinical trials in American states, the approach to testing is the same in the nations of Latin America.  Whether the setting is Argentina, Mexico, Tennessee or Iowa, our companies are largely concentrating on the most debilitating chronic diseases for which we have a desperate need of new treatments and that’s obviously beneficial to patients.

And just as they do in the United States, biopharmaceutical companies hire local research collaborators to conduct clinical trials of new medicines in Latin America, providing a steady revenue source and an opportunity for local scientists to engage in cutting-edge clinical research work.

Clinical trials are a lucrative revenue source – accounting for 45 to 75 percent of the average $1.2 billion cost of developing a new drug. 

New generation biotechnology medicines are also being clinically tested in Latin America and with biotechnology, we have the strong potential of developing safer and more effective treatments and we are improving our ability to predict and even prevent disease.  In other words, clinical research underway in both North and South America is helping to advance science and patient care.

The messages that have resonated so well at “Research in Your Backyard” news conferences and legislative hearings in the United States may soon find an audience in Latin America and beyond.  It’s an important story to tell.  

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