Embrace Biopharmaceutical Innovation To Save Lives

More Americans are beating cancer than ever before. Cancer mortality rates have plummeted 27 percent in the past quarter-century, according to the American Cancer Society.

This trend is no accident. Drug companies have invented hundreds of breakthrough therapies, many of which stop cancer in its tracks. A majority of these medicines have been invented in the United States.

There’s a reason for this. America’s intellectual property laws are the best in the world.

But some American politicians want to weaken IP laws. Gutting protections would be a mistake — and patients would suffer.

Drug research is costly. On average, it takes a decade — and $2.6 billion — to bring one new drug to market. Projects are also risky.

Just over 10 percent of medicines that enter clinical trials are approved by the FDA.

America’s IP protections encourage investors to fund medical research despite the risks. Investment in the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry hit more than $70 billion in 2017. Nearly 4,000 new medicines are currently being developed in the United States, including 1,100 that will treat cancer.

But not every country values IP. Many nations arbitrarily cap what they’re willing to pay companies for prescription drugs. Meanwhile, developing nations tend to disregard U.S. patents to save a few bucks on domestically produced knock-off drugs.

These practices hinder U.S. firms’ ability to recoup their R&D losses and hamstring medical innovation.

If lawmakers really want to make drugs more affordable, they should strengthen IP protections.

The United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement is a great place to start. USMCA affords companies that produce biologics — drugs made from living organisms — a longer period of time when competing drug companies cannot access their clinical trial data. This ensures that innovators have time to profit from their discoveries before rival firms can produce their own version of a therapy.

Lawmakers should also work to end price controls abroad. If we axed price controls now, by 2030 we’d see an additional 13 drugs developed each year.

Thanks to medical advancement, the average American lives a decade longer than they did in 1950.

Protecting intellectual property will help the patients of today get the medicines of tomorrow.

Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA associate commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.


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