A scientist working at a San Diego life sciences company. Image from CONNECT video

California and the biotech cradle in San Diego played a critical role in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with local companies leading the way on the development of vaccines, tests and treatments. This kind of innovation in the face of significant public health challenges brings hope to all Californians, but particularly those who are living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

Unfortunately, Congress is currently considering drug pricing proposals that will jeopardize investment in local research and development and that have the potential to delay or eliminate patient access to the innovative therapies of tomorrow.  

One such proposal is the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act,” also known as H.R. 3, which contains a number of controversial and onerous drug price-control provisions. In the name of cost containment, Congress is considering remaking the Medicare benefit design to allow for price negotiation in the Medicare Part D program. Another proposal under consideration would tie the U.S. prices for medicines to the prices paid in foreign countries. 

Unfortunately, we know that there is a direct correlation between this kind of price control and a decrease in investment in the research and development of innovative therapies. We also know that patients in foreign countries often wait longer to have access to treatments once they have been developed.

One recent study found that if H.R. 3 had been in place over the last 10 years, California would have seen an 88% reduction in medicines coming to market. But those living with Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, or other complex and rare diseases, cannot afford to wait.

The journey to a cure for hepatitis C is illustrative of the enormous impact that investment in innovation can have on the lives of patients and their families. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can result in serious health problems such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever treatment for hepatitis C nearly 30 years ago. Early treatments had significant side effects and low success rates — patients on these treatments experienced a cure rate of only about 6%.

In the last decade, however, after constant innovation, a newer class of drugs — direct-acting antivirals — have revolutionized hepatitis C treatment. These new treatments have shorter treatment times, fewer side effects, and higher cure rates than older drugs. Today, there is more than a 95% success rate.

But those living with other kinds of cancer, MS, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and other rare and life-threatening diseases deserve the same hope. 

Reining in the cost of health care is something that matters to all Californians, but attempts to lower costs must not come at the expense of innovation and patient access to treatments.

San Diego-area Rep. Scott Peters, along with Los Angeles-area Reps. Tony Cardenas and Lou Correa, recently expressed their concerns about the potential impact of Medicare drug price negotiation and international reference pricing.

We applaud these Congressmen and urge the entire California congressional delegation to join them in rejecting any proposals that threaten biomedical innovation and patient access to the treatments and cures of tomorrow. 

Scott Suckow is the executive director of the Liver Coalition of San Diego and chairman of the California Chronic Care Coalition in San Diego County.

Show comments