#PhRMA12: Inspiration for Advancing Medical Innovation

#PhRMA12: Inspiration for Advancing Medical Innovation

04.16.12 | By Christian Clymer

This is a guest post from John C. Lechleiter, PhD, who is Chairman, President and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company. Starting today, Mr. Lechleiter is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of PhRMA.

The biopharmaceutical industry is all about medical innovation. It's our lifeblood. Yet, too often we talk about medical innovation without making it hit home for people outside the industry.

Rewind to three decades ago, when HIV first became a major public health concern. Not only were we on the verge of a human disaster, but public health officials worried that we wouldn't have enough hospitals to treat an approaching avalanche of AIDS patients. Thanks to medical innovation, it didn't happen (AIDS deaths have dropped by 70 percent since 1995). Similarly, thanks to a two-thirds drop in the death rate from coronary heart disease in the U.S. since the 1960s, 1 million more Americans are alive each year. Anti-hypertensive treatments alone account for 800,000 fewer hospitalizations each year - and 86,000 fewer deaths.

These are impressive and important success stories, but our work is far from over. Fast-forward to today: too many people still die from cancer. Diabetes is growing at epidemic rates. And Alzheimer's disease represents an imminent crisis. The Alzheimer's Association says that by 2050, more than 13 million Americans will have the disease - at a cost of more than $1 trillion annually - unless better treatments are found.

Sustaining our advances in medical innovation is priority one -- and it's incumbent upon all those in our industry to make it happen. The ongoing revolution in the life sciences, with all its promise, will mean little without public policies that foster innovation. We have to get our story out in compelling and meaningful ways. Our industry must also continue to build trust with our various stakeholders. By telling the stories of our mothers and brothers and children who've been saved by new medical treatments - and by upholding the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior in everything we do - the fruits of our efforts can be fully realized.

I'm proud to chair PhRMA's board for the next 12 months - and it's an honor to be part of an industry that focuses on saving lives. But let's not look at our past successes as some sort of historical footnote. Let's use them as inspiration to find new innovative treatments for the next generation of patients. They're waiting.

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