By Earl Whipple
The U.S. leads the world in medical innovation with high standards of care, skilled physicians, the availability of meaningful medicines, and state-of-the-art technology. But there’s no question the US health care system needs considerable improvement.
- More than 47 million Americans do not have health insurance
- 130 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease – and many are worried about how they are going to pay for treatment. 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in this country is related to chronic disease treatment.
Improving health-care is one of the most important challenges that our nation faces.
75 cents of every dollar spent on health care in this country is related to chronic disease treatments like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. Chronic diseases also disproportionately affect low-income patients.
At the same time, our health care system suffers from high administrative costs, major coverage gaps, technological dislocations, and areas of low health outcomes.
There is universal acceptance of the need for reform, but fractious debate on how to achieve it. Meaningful reform will require a move from ideology and politics to ideas and cooperative solutions.
At AstraZeneca, we believe that every American should have affordable health insurance and prescription drug coverage. Meaningful reform requires a smarter, leaner, and more agile market-based system that maximizes patient choices while minimizing system costs. We must be able to access the latest and best therapies, reward innovation regardless of where it occurs, and enhance the quality, efficiency, and delivery of care. To make this future a reality, health care reform should:
- Promote market competition that leads to improved health outcomes. Innovation no longer happens in one company’s lab – it is happening through constant interaction between scientists in pharma, biotech, academia and government.
- Ensure that patient safety is No. 1. We must ensure the benefits of medicines outweigh their risks, communicating benefit/risk information, and being transparent in clinical trials. We recognize the critical role the FDA plays in safeguarding the public’s health, and we support a strong, well-funded, independent FDA.
- Expand coverage for the uninsured. Access to quality care must be a primary focus of the healthcare reform debate along with a focus on outcomes that reduce healthcare disparities. Approximately 47 million people in the U.S. do not have health care coverage, and the consequences of this gap are profound AstraZeneca employees are very proud that our Patient Assistance Program has been helping people afford their medications since 1978.. In the last five years, it has resulted in savings of more than $3 billion to patients in need. Of the 47 million Americans without health insurance, 33 million could find assistance through our program.
- Foster innovation and protect intellectual property. Discovering new differentiated medicines is expensive with high rates of failure occurring in the face of potential success—in fact, it takes up to 15 years and approximately $1 billion to bring a drug from discovery to a patient’s medicine cabinet. Without IP protection, pharmaceutical companies would be unable to recover the enormous investments into R&D to research the next generation of new medicines. Protecting IP also ensures a continued supply of generic drugs.
Tell us where you stand on health care reform. What are the system’s biggest strengths and weaknesses? What can the health care industry do to make medicines more affordable while still raising funds to invest in R&D? Do you agree that patient choice is at the center of reform?