Dr. Elizabeth Nabel: The medical innovation ecosystem is under attack

Andrea Park - Print  | 

Congressional proposals regarding drug pricing will reduce the financial incentives that spur the discovery and development of new treatments, therefore staunching the flow of biomedical innovation, according to Elizabeth Nabel, MD, president of Brigham Health.

In a Feb. 13 op-ed for The Detroit News, Dr. Nabel, who is also president of the Boston-based health system's Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, posited that "our innovation ecosystem is now under assault."

Cutting-edge medicines — such as those developed in recent years to treat rare pediatric blood diseases and cure hepatitis C — require years of research, millions in financial backing and government policies and regulations that encourage innovation, all of which is currently "threatened" by policy proposals regarding drug price controls, Dr. Nabel wrote.

"In Congress, some lawmakers want to import foreign price controls. Others want to introduce price controls in Medicare. Still others want to allow the federal government to set prices on any medicine whose origin lies in government-funded research," she wrote. "Though doubtlessly well-intentioned, these policy changes could eliminate the financial incentives that allow research scientists to explore new treatments."

These proposals, Dr. Nabel suggested, would limit most biomedical research to government-funded labs, an undesirable situation in which "a handful of government officials to decide which experimental treatments get funding — and which ones die in the lab."

Drug discovery and innovation thrives, however, when privately funded firms, which are better equipped to withstand the risk and expense associated with drug development, are given the resources they need to do so.

"If we want American firms to continue producing lifesaving treatments, we need to protect them," Dr. Nabel concluded.

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