The agenda for MassBio’s 2016 Policy Leadership Breakfast was ambitious and provocative—and the conversation that resulted did not disappoint.
The program went directly at two of the most pressing issues we face as a Commonwealth—a growing opioid addiction epidemic and a healthcare system that can’t accommodate breakthrough therapies and cures.
Three key takeaways:
1. If anyone is going to eradicate opioid addiction, it’s us.
We’ve got companies with treatments to reverse overdoses, to block pleasure receptors when someone does take drugs, and technologies to create tamper-resistant medicine. “There is no greater collection of minds and energies” to solve the opioid crisis than the stakeholders in MA, Attorney General Maura Healey said. And when Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services, shared her dream for a long-term solution—the development of a non-addictive painkiller—we had good news. Blue Therapeutics, a MassBio member and MassCONNECT alumni company is developing a painkiller that’s stronger than morphine but poses zero risk of abuse.
2. The Attorney General’s door is open, and we have to take her up on her offer to come talk.
AG Healey was explicit—she wants to have “honest conversations” about cost and value and work with industry to ensure all patients have access to therapies and cures. She did share some of the factors she believed should factor in the equation, including accounting for the costs avoided when we cure otherwise chronic conditions and weighing quality of life benefits for patients and their families. But her comments on the impact of Solvaldi on the system and her letter to Gilead urging for discounted pricing for the Commonwealth’s public payers (released publicly yesterday morning) is a glimpse of how she intends to use her authority to shape the conversation and potentially public policy.
3. The pressures the healthcare system has faced in the last 18 months pale in comparison to what we can expect for a robust pipeline of personalized medicines and eventually gene therapy.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts CEO Andrew Dreyfus said he does not know how to balance cost and access as specialty drugs continue to come to market (although the company is looking at all sorts of options, including indication-specific pricing and other new payment models, as well as new insurance products to reward low-cost solutions.) And ICER COO Sarah Emond admitted her organization’s new value framework is insufficient to measure one-time treatments like gene therapy. But we can’t throw up our hands in resignation. Instead, MassBio CEO Bob Coughlin called for a Payer-Provider-Industry Task Force “to develop solutions together and to bring those solutions forward to our partners in government.” And Dreyfus and Emond agreed. They even shook on it.
So now what?
From MassBio CEO Bob Coughlin’s challenge to industry at the start of the program: We can not shy away from difficult conversations, and we must educate and engage all stakeholders to find a path forward together.
And from MassBio Chairman Glenn Batchelder: It’s time to roll up our sleeves and find solutions, not just trade soundbites.
The time is now, members. We stand by to work hand-in-hand with all of you to tackle these issues.
Looking to get involved in MassBio’s ongoing Value initiatives? Contact Sarah MacDonald.