Could you introduce our readers to PhRMA and its role within the pharmaceutical industry?
PhRMA represents the nation’s leading biopharmaceutical research companies. Our organization advocates for public policies that encourage the research and development and manufacturing of new medicines that allow patients to lead longer, healthier, and more productive lives.
Currently, PhRMA is helping fight Covid-19 through new treatments; vaccines and enhancing future pandemic preparedness remain key priorities. We are also engaging with policymakers and others on health care reforms to make life-saving medicines available and affordable for patients and to support more equitable health care delivery.
How important is the theme of patient centricity in healthcare?
Patients are at the center of everything we do. The patient perspective must be considered in all aspects of a medicine’s life cycle from ensuring patients' experiences, perspectives, needs, and priorities are captured and meaningfully incorporated into drug development and evaluation to considering the patient perspective in assessing the value of new medicines. We support efforts to empower patients to assert greater control over their own health care and policies to ensure they have access to and can afford their medicines at the pharmacy counter.
What role can state and federal legislatures play in establishing more accessible drug pricing?
There is no doubt that the system needs to work better for patients, and many common-sense reforms are available to policymakers.
In the US, PhRMA works with policymakers across the country, focusing on policy solutions that address issues like the high out-of-pocket costs patients see due to the increasing use of deductibles and coinsurance. West Virginia, for example, has passed a law that ensures rebates and discounts already given to insurers and other middlemen by biopharmaceutical companies are consistently shared with patients to lower costs at the pharmacy counter. Similar legislation is under consideration in other states.
At the federal level, we are advocating for ideas that would modernize the Medicare Part D prescription drug program by capping what seniors must pay each year for medicines, lowering cost sharing and making seniors’ costs more predictable each month.
How can the industry at large enhance its global supply chains to increase efficiency and resiliency?
We support policies to further enhance resiliency in our supply chains, such as policies to support on-demand manufacturing, adoption of the regulatory flexibilities implemented during the pandemic to allow manufacturers to quickly respond to emerging threats, and federal investments to address critical infrastructure gaps such as the significant gaps in the STEM workforce, all of which are needed to fuel continued innovation.
What has the pandemic shown us about the level of innovation and collaboration possible within the life sciences?
We have seen an unprecedented level of collaboration across the private sector and among public and private sector actors toward a common goal of combatting Covid-19. Biopharmaceutical companies continue to work around the clock to research, develop, and produce safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to save lives.
To date, there have been more than 370 collaborations on Covid-19 vaccines manufacturing and 155 for therapeutics. These voluntary partnerships are occurring in every continent. Longstanding intellectual property (IP) protections, voluntary technology transfers, and partnerships have been critical to the development, authorization, and manufacturing of 13 billion Covid-19 vaccines as of March 2022, with an expected capacity to produce more than 20 billion doses in 2022 – more than enough to vaccinate the entire world.
Which key innovations do you see driving the industry presently, and what is your forecast for the next few years?
Biopharmaceutical innovation is ushering in a new wave of breakthrough treatments in the form of potentially curative cell and gene therapies. These treatments can modify genes in a patient’s body to treat, prevent or even cure a disease, including childhood blindness and spinal muscular atrophy. Right now, there are nearly 400 cell and gene therapies in development including possible treatments for cancer, sickle cell disease, and hemophilia.
Biopharmaceutical researchers accelerated scientific progress by harnessing mRNA technology for Covid-19 vaccines. mRNA technology used in Covid-19 vaccines could lead to major advances in the creation of new vaccines as well as be harnessed to address diseases such as HIV and cancer.
The ability to bring forward advances in these areas relies on a science-based regulatory system, strong intellectual property rights and incentives, and a coverage and payment system that recognizes the value of new medicines to meet patients’ unmet medical needs.