The Astellas Way Blog

A Story Worth Telling

By Jim Robinson, President, Astellas Americas

Dec 1, 2017

When it comes to talking about our industry, I’m not exactly objective. Those of us who have devoted our careers to biopharmaceutical innovation are engaged in the only industry in the United States that invests approximately 20 cents of every revenue dollar into the research and development of new treatments and cures for patients. And we couldn’t be more proud of it.

It’s impossible to remain dispassionate. Every day, we read news stories devoted to milestones in cancer treatments, such as recent immunotherapy advancements. We also see incremental steps toward new innovations, like the FDA’s recent decision to grant fast-track designation to our developmental work on a treatment for a form of acute myeloid leukemia. But these are just the beginning of a coming flow of promising new medicines that could transform health care.

A Robust Pipeline

Industry-wide, there are over 170 medicines in development to treat diabetes, more than 80 in the pipeline to bring hope to Alzheimer’s patients and their families, another 500-plus for rare diseases, and the list goes on.

The point is, we have a great story to tell – and it’s increasingly important that we do so because each patient hopes for a cure, a better treatment, and a healthier, longer life.

It’s no secret that the biopharmaceutical industry and health care generally are under a good deal of scrutiny right now. As these new innovative medicines – therapies that take years to discover, and additional years of clinical trials to earn regulatory approval – make their way to patients, it’s inevitable that this will raise questions about their costs.

But that’s OK – we know that the mission of our industry and our commitment to patients is paramount. We’re seeking new ways to make sure innovative treatments are affordable for the patients, and their families, who need them. As a whole, medicines continue to represent a relatively small share of total healthcare costs – and in many cases they can lead to savings in other segments of the system and contributions to productivity and economic growth.

Evolving Marketplace

We also respect and appreciate the way the healthcare marketplace is evolving. Systems are changing to place a greater emphasis on achieving value, to ensure that the money spent on care is resulting in improved patient health. This is a challenge we’re prepared to accept. In fact, biopharmaceutical companies are actively seeking to work together with health insurers and health providers to develop innovative mechanisms to make life-saving and life-changing medications accessible.

Our imperative is to make sure that the story we’re telling – and I strongly urge you to check out to meet some of the devoted scientists in our sector – continues to be an inspiring and hopeful one.

Intersection of Science and Policy

This was reinforced recently when leading biopharmaceutical researchers visited with Members of Congress and staff on Capitol Hill. They shared the excitement of the science – but also the realities and complexities of drug discovery and development. They also underscored the importance of public policies that help encourage future innovation – policies such as strong intellectual property protections, an efficient regulatory system that keeps up with the science, and as I mentioned, a competitive marketplace that emphasizes value based on improved outcomes.

Over the past year, we’ve seen important movement on the health policy front. Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act is underway and the Prescription Drug Fee User Act (PDUFA) was successfully reauthorized with strong bipartisan support. A controversial Medicare Part B demonstration project that would have impeded patient access to life-saving medicines was withdrawn, and the House of Representatives recently passed a bill to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an important step towards similarly preserving access for Medicare beneficiaries.

Maintaining this progress in the coming months and years will require us to be active in educating policymakers and influencers regarding what is at stake.

As we know from our own work at Astellas in fields like oncology and neuroscience, the biopharmaceutical sector is on the verge of transformative change. However, we must proudly share our story, our excitement and our vision with those who need to hear it.

Without question, it’s a story worth telling.