Speaking onstage at the newspaper’s annual U.S. Pharmaceutical and Biotech Summit, Amgen’s CEO explains why preserving biopharmaceutical innovation is compatible with affordable patient access to the resulting treatments.
Amgen CEO Bob Bradway offered a spirited defense of the biopharmaceutical innovation model and spotlighted the need for new medicines to address health needs of the world’s rapidly aging population in remarks at this year’s Financial Times U.S. Pharmaceutical and Biotech Summit, held on May 17.
Participating virtually in a main-stage conversation with FT global healthcare correspondent Hannah Kuchler, Bradway shared his excitement about emerging medicines with the potential to treat or prevent widespread and serious chronic conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, and obesity.
The key question, Bradway noted, is whether societies around the world are prepared to pay for access by patients to potential new treatments for serious chronic diseases, even after they have been shown to be safe and effective. “Society has to confront the question: do we want to invest in medicines that enable us to prevent these chronic diseases and the costs they bring to the healthcare system, or do we want to pretend that there are two separate costs - those that are related to drugs and those that are related to hospital and other clinical services?”
Bradway cited obesity as an example of how innovative medicines can prevent diseases and thus also the heavy downstream cost of treating them. “It's not hard to identify those who are at risk of diseases associated with obesity,” he observed. “You simply need to look at those who are struggling with weight. We have an opportunity, with new therapies like ours, to try to address that challenge.”
“It makes sense for society to invest in innovation,” Bradway insisted, adding that national economies are strengthened when governments invest “in therapies that help prevent downstream disabling disorders which constrict the economy and prevent people from living long and healthy lives.”
A recent World Obesity Federation report, for example, estimated that costs associated with obesity worldwide could exceed $4 trillion a year by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve. Even if projections prove accurate that newer, more effective obesity treatments could represent a $50 billion annual market, that’s still 80 times less costly than doing nothing.
When asked at the Financial Times conference whether society must choose between biopharmaceutical innovation and affordable access to the resulting treatments, Bradway noted that innovative medicines enjoy a relatively short period of market exclusivity, after which they normally become available in lower-cost generic or biosimilar form. Society can reinvest at least part of the resulting savings in continued innovation.
While Bradway acknowledged that governments face heavy financial pressure as they struggle to fund healthcare services for their rapidly aging populations, he insisted that price controls on medicines and restrictions on intellectual property protection would curtail new innovations just when they are most needed. “I'm not trying to pretend that it doesn’t involve tough choices,” he said, “but I think societies that are choosing to invest in innovation are benefiting from it.” By way of example, Bradway contrasted rapid adoption of new cancer treatments in the United States with delays of up to several years in some European countries. Such delays, he noted, impose significant costs in terms of lost lives, lower quality of life, and reduced national economic prosperity.
“If we want our society to be one in which people live long and healthy lives,” he concluded, “we need more innovation, not less. And we're not going to get more innovation if we're not prepared to support it.”