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This Isn’t a Strategy to Lower Drug Costs Either

According to a 2015 CDC report, 1 in 10 Americans can’t afford their medications. Since then the problem has gotten worse. Brand-name oral prescription drugs rose more than 9 percent a year from 2008 and 2016. The annual cost of injectable drugs rose more than 15 percent over the same period.

After the Bristol-Myers Calgen merger, potential presidential contender, Elizabeth Warren tweeted her frustration:

ProofPilot, as a company, tends to gravitate towards more liberal politicians. But, we’d like to caution Senator Warren about making statements vilifying a whole industry. As we’ve seen, this approach only drives people apart. And, to make drugs more affordable, we need collaboration among a diverse set of players.

Profit motivations do play a role in drug price inflation. Despite being discovered in 1921, Insulin costs doubled from 2012 to 2016. But ProofPilot’s interactions with pharma professionals show a profit is not the only motive. ProofPilot came to pharma after working in more stereotypically socially-aware industries like government and social services. We find pharma professionals have an equally strong drive to improve lives. Many have personal lived experiences that drove them to the sector.

Big-pharma takes on massive innovation risk. The public sector, not known for its capacity to innovate or take risks, can leverage that. Every drug discovery is a series of repeated and increasingly complex experiments. Despite billions invested, only about 12% human trials and get FDA approval. That’s a business success rate half tech venture capital investors and Broadway musical producers.

Pharmaceuticals are highly regulated. Policy-makers can institute regulations that ease drug approvals while maintaining safety and efficacy. In fact, in 2016, they took a big step towards that goal. The 21st Century Cures Act makes real-world data admissable for FDA regulatory submissions. This alone opens more efficient, decentralized trial processes that could save time and money.

Making drugs more affordable will also require participation from pharmacy benefit managers, digital health innovators, healthcare providers, and public health experts. Respectful collaboration is essential. Broad, retweetable vilification are not. ProofPilot hopes Senator Warren, and others will lead with the nuance required to solve the problem.

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