Week in Review: The Fight for Innovation and Access

Week in Review: The Fight for Innovation and Access

07.18.14 | By Kaelan Hollon

Our president and CEO John Castellani asked, “What would happen if the pace of medical innovation in the U.S. slowed or halted altogether?” It’s a scary thought when you consider that without research and development (R&D), the treatments patients have come to depend on and hope to see in the future would not and will not exist. As a result, this week we highlighted a few extraordinary advancements and discussed what it means when patients do not have access to necessary treatments.

The progress we’ve made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is featured in our latest infographic, is one example. Just more than 25 years ago, patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS could only expect to live months due to lack of treatment options. Today, thanks to innovative R&D, U.S. death rates have dropped 83% and HIV has been transformed to a manageable disease. The future for HIV/AIDS patients continues to be bright. With nearly 75 medicines in the pipeline, there is hope for better treatments and even the possibility of a cure on the horizon.

The shift from managing a condition to being able to cure it has already occurred for hepatitis C patients. The disease affects nearly three million Americans today who face high medical costs if the infection is left untreated. New and forthcoming treatments have sparked controversy with their high price tag of approximately $1,000 per pill. When considering the $600,000 bill for a liver transplant or the $85 billion combined annual medical costs for all hepatitis C patients projected by 2034, however, the cost doesn’t seem so off base. Additionally, solely looking at the cost of the medicine, fails to account for the invaluable increase in lifespan and quality of life that patients gain from these innovative new medicines.

But what happens when patients find themselves without access to essential treatments? In a post for the Morning Consult, John Castellani discussed the recent growth of the 340B program and its impact on vulnerable patients. 340B was established to help indigent and uninsured patients get needed medicines. According to a new white paper from the Alliance for Integrity and Reform of 340B (AIR 340B), however, the rapid growth of contract pharmacies by more than 1,200 percent in just three years has resulted in a lack of program oversight and regulation.

Limited access is also an issue for patients with chronic conditions enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance exchange plans. We wrapped up our Burden on Patients series with a focus on oncology, and this series has highlighted the difficult situation many chronic disease patients face when it comes to getting their needed medicines. PhRMA is committed to ensuring these individuals get the coverage they deserve, and we outlined our thoughts in a concluding post.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more on how the industry is working to help patients live longer, healthier lives, and check back in with the Catalyst next week when we post a new Medicines in Development report to highlight more exciting treatments in the pipeline.

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