The following Op-Ed was published on September 17, 2018 in Health News, a leading Chinese trade media outlet.
Addressing China's Health Challenges through a "Predict and Prevent" Model
Author: Robert A. Bradway, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Amgen, and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American
When a person has a heart attack, he goes to the emergency room. When someone gets a migraine, she takes medicine to relieve the symptoms. When an elderly person falls and fractures their hip, he goes to the hospital. That's how the healthcare system around the world has operated for generations. When something breaks, we fix it.
But there is a better way. Scientific advancements and innovation increasingly enable us to predict who is at risk for heart disease and osteoporotic fracture, for example, so we can drive toward preventing those life-altering and life-threatening illnesses from happening. Now is the time for health systems around the world to move to a "predict and prevent" model of health care.
China is already moving toward this new paradigm, which makes it such an exciting time to visit in my role as chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). I applaud China's "Prevention First" principle in health care. I also want to share our organization's experience on how best to craft and implement reforms to help achieve that goal and reiterate our industry's commitment to being a collaborative partner.
Meeting the Challenge of an Aging Population: Increasing Patient Access to Innovative Drugs
The "predict and prevent" model will be especially important for China, home to the world's largest aging population, with nearly 150 million people over the age of 65. Here again, China is implementing a forward-thinking strategy called "Healthy China 2030," which includes extending health services to aging populations, improving care for chronic disease and improving elderly patients' access to essential medicines.
I have seen China's progress in these areas as the head of Amgen, a biopharmaceutical company with a mission to serve patients by pushing the boundaries of biotechnology and transforming healthcare. Today, thanks to recent reforms, patients in China will enjoy easier access to medicines from our company and others in the industry.
Recently, the National Medical Products Administration took the unprecedented step of asking international biopharmaceutical companies to leverage overseas clinical data to expedite launch of 48 new drugs in China, including medicines to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer, two diseases that have major repercussions for the elderly. This announcement was a good step forward in serving China's aging population. It will also save money and boost the economy.
Consider a patient who suffers from osteoporosis, which decreases bone density. It's a condition that decreases quality of life for aging patients and adds costs to the health care system when someone suffers a fracture or breaks a bone and must stay in the hospital. When patients have access to new medicines – like the osteoporosis treatments several global biopharmaceutical companies hope to bring to the Chinese market in the near future – it can increase productivity and overall economic growth, and hopefully lead to better quality of life for those patients and their families.
PhRMA's Support for Healthy China: Three Areas for Continued Improvement
The future looks even more promising. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested more than half a trillion dollars in research and development, yielding a pipeline of thousands of potential new treatments – three-quarters of which are potentially first-in-class medicines. With these innovations, we will be better able to treat serious diseases – including through therapies tailored to specific individuals – and, increasingly, predict and prevent those diseases from occurring in the first place.
China has set forth worthy goals in its Healthy China 2030 plan. To get there, China will need more forward-looking policy reforms and the support of many stakeholders. PhRMA wants to be a partner in these efforts, and we see three areas for continued improvement.
The first is to continue accelerating the drug review and approval process by removing bottlenecks in the system, such as those related to clinical trial data inspections. We urge China to move forward with breaking down barriers that prevent innovative drugs from reaching patients who urgently need them.
The second is implementing intellectual property policy reforms that are consistent with international best practices. This will encourage innovators from all over the world, including China, to bring the latest treatments and cures to Chinese patients.
Finally, while we are glad to see that China is creating a reimbursement mechanism for innovative medicines, we strongly encourage a timely, transparent and predictable process that appropriately considers their value.
The best way to treat a heart attack, fractured bone or migraine is to make sure they never happen in the first place. This can be enabled through focused and purposeful collaborations. PhRMA's member companies, including Amgen, can be critical catalysts for these types of partnerships.
I look forward to seeing up close the monumental progress happening in China's health system toward this predict and prevent paradigm so patients here – and everywhere – can live better, healthier lives.