The world has waited anxiously for vaccines and treatments to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies banded together in ways we didn’t realize were possible, to form research, manufacturing, and distribution partnerships, collaborating to ensure the vaccines and treatments being developed could get to the people who need them as fast as possible.
Pfizer is proud of our ability to move at such extraordinary speed during this time to develop a vaccine with our partner BioNTech, while always maintaining our focus on quality and safety. It is the most extreme example of innovation at its best. This global breakthrough gives us hope that the decades of research that enabled us to develop a vaccine so quickly and found in other biopharmaceutical companies in Connecticut and across the country, will also be able to support cures for such devastating conditions as cancer, autoimmune diseases, and cardiometabolic diseases.
We’ve enjoyed a good partnership with our elected leaders in Connecticut, who continue to ensure this type of innovation is possible, which is why I was extremely disappointed to see the introduction of HB 6447, An Act Creating The Covered Connecticut Program To Expand Access To Affordable Health Care in the General Assembly. While we can all agree that the bill title is something to strive for, enacting the bill itself could have serious negative impacts on innovation, research and development investment here in Connecticut.
The bulk of the medical research mentioned above happens here in the US. In total, US-based firms fund about 44% of the world’s medical research and development and invest 75% of global medical capital. From 2014 to 2018, US companies developed about twice as many new drugs as all of Europe combined. In Connecticut, the biopharmaceutical sector contributes roughly $8 billion in economic output and accounts for 35,000 direct and indirect jobs.
This innovative success stems from an economic and regulatory ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, supported by a unique combination of systemic factors. Gov. Ned Lamont, a former businessman, understands this, and rightfully touts Connecticut’s status as fourth in the nation for innovation.
Since Gov. Lamont took office, we have had the privilege of welcoming him to our site several times. We were particularly honored when he held his daily COVID-19 press briefing at our Groton site in July last year and heralded the miraculous work being done to develop a potential vaccine. Since then, Pfizer has supplied the US with more than 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and is on track to deliver 300 million doses to the US by the end of July.
To speed production, we recently began lipid production for the COVID vaccine at our Groton facility. In fact, every medicine that Pfizer develops comes through our Groton facility at some point, and many were discovered right here.
The truth is if HB 6447 becomes law, it will institute a detrimental price control system on medicines and stifle the very industry Gov. Lamont and the members of the General Assembly support.
If passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Lamont, this bill will fail to lower what patients pay at the pharmacy counter, which is set by their insurance company, while threatening research development here in Connecticut. This bill puts the lives of patients living with some of the most complex diseases at risk, not to mention the negative impact on our efforts to prepare for the next pandemic.
The center of US pharmaceutical innovation is rising to the challenge of beating back this insidious pandemic. Moments like this one – with the whole world watching – allow the US to showcase its global leadership in pharmaceutical innovation. Long after treatments and cures for coronavirus have been developed, this industry will go on to improve and ultimately save the lives of millions of people suffering from countless other diseases.
Over the past decade, the US alone has solved or dramatically improved care for some of the most devastating medical challenges of our time – from known infections like pneumococcal pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis C, to rare diseases like spinal muscular atrophy.
The ecosystem that enables this progress is one we should work together to protect – not destroy. We know Gov. Lamont understands and supports the innovation happening right here in Connecticut. We are asking him and the legislature to reject the price controls in HB 6447 and address the rising cost of health care holistically and look at all of the entities, including insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and distributors that add significant costs to drug prices.
John Burkhardt is Senior Vice President – Global Head, Drug Safety R&D | Site Director, Connecticut Laboratories, Pfizer.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.