Like many Americans, I was surprised by the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Many fully expected a Hillary Clinton victory. With that expectation was the belief that drug pricing would remain a key focus of the political debate.
With the election of Donald Trump as our next President, is the focus off drug prices? Will things go back to business as usual? Will changes to the Affordable Care Act, the economy, jobs and immigration consume all of the political oxygen in the room, leaving no room for anything else?
My answer to those questions: No.
Let’s not fool ourselves. The outcome on November 8 didn’t change the fact that many Americans are angry about the rising cost of healthcare and their medicines. This anger will fuel the discussion about affordability well into the future.
The biopharmaceutical industry does amazing things to help people and is an American treasure. As an industry, we discover and advance inventions that improve health. We fund research by universities, academic institutions and startup biotech companies. We deliver new medicines, vaccines and devices that help millions of people live longer, healthier lives. And we employ hundreds of thousands of people in good-paying jobs who are committed to doing good things every day.
But our industry has a social contract. Patients understand that making new medicines requires significant investment. Companies doing the hard, long and risky work of bringing new medicines to market have generally understood that they have to price medicines in a way that makes them accessible to patients while providing sufficient profit to encourage future investment. Everybody wins when it works the way it should.
But some have violated this social contract, and the whole industry is under attack. The election results don't change that debate.
The election may give the industry time to demonstrate that it can self-govern. Time to demonstrate that the social contract is alive and well. If not, our elected leaders may act without us–at the peril of innovations that could help millions of patients. In September, Allergan drafted ourSocial Contract with Patients. It outlines four principles that guide us to do what is right for physicians and patients. One principle is limiting price increases and ensuring access to life-enhancing treatments.
Building on this document, today Allergan is making its medicines more affordable and accessible to even more patients by increasing eligibility for more than 40 medications in its Patient Assistance Program (PAP). Allergan will now provide free medicines to eligible patients earning up to four times the federal poverty level (FPL), and for certain complex medicines, free medicines to eligible patients earning up to five times the FPL. Based on data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 200 million Americans fall below those income levels, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured, and may need our treatments. Allergan joins industry leaders who offer generous, best-in-class patient assistance programs which are among the most accommodating programs in the industry.
Our industry must not pretend that everything is fine because the cost of medicines may not be priority number one for the Trump Administration. Americans are still dealing with rising healthcare costs. We have the power to do something about the cost of medicines.
I hope our industry takes this message to heart.
The biopharmaceutical industry does have a social contract with patients. Now is the time to make good on that contract by taking self-regulating action. Take your own stand and implement your form of a social contract. Limit your price increases before we all face the impact of government regulation that stifles innovation and patient care.
Brent Saunders is chairman and CEO of Allergan. Follow him on Twitter at @brentlsaunders.