Biden risks killing moon cancer on launch pad

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For personal and political reasons, I strongly supported Joe Biden as President. He has never hesitated on climate change, women’s rights, immigration or other issues that are close to my heart.

Paul Hastings is CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics in San Francisco and President of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a biotechnology business group.

Perhaps most convincing, however, was his passion for fighting cancer. Biden promised, “I promise you that if I am elected president… we will cure the cancer.” He devoted much of his career to this cause after his son Beau was killed by illness. He founded the Biden Cancer Initiative and led the Moonshot Cancer Program as vice president.

I run a biotechnology company, Nkarta Therapeutics, where researchers are developing a new cell therapy to fight cancer. My colleagues and I saw Biden as a soul mate, determined to root out one of our biggest killers.

But these days, I’m upset with the White House’s policy on this. Congress is set to pass provisions in Biden’s Build Back Better Act that would destroy the president’s inspirational cancer agenda. The Build Back Better drug pricing measures could score political points for the president, but they would do so at the expense of life-saving innovation.

The president’s goal – to reduce health care costs – is the right one. But the Democratic plan will only backfire on patients and the healthcare system.

The proposal would allow Medicare to begin pricing drugs in 2025, starting with 10 drugs per year, but growing to nearly 100 drugs by the end of the decade.

If a drug company refuses to agree to government terms, it will have to pay a 95% tax on the gross sales of its drugs.

So, while the effort is referred to as “negotiations”, it is quite the opposite. The government would choose its price and make an offer that the drug companies could not refuse.

This proposal threatens the innovation ecosystem that we have today. Private investors fund new ideas in the hope that some of them will turn into world-changing treatments – and financial successes. But a government pricing system would prevent much of that huge investment from being won. This would make it virtually impossible for companies to raise funds for high-risk ventures, like pandemic vaccines or diabetes and cancer cures.

My own start-up might never have started with the kind of pricing system proposed in Democratic law. Many small businesses were also unable to pursue their own moonshot-type projects.

Some politicians suggest that we don’t need private investments in drug research because the government could provide the missing funds. But the private sector spends a lot more on research – about five times more than the government per year.

There are other reforms that would save patients money without bankrupting biopharmaceutical companies.

For example, Congress should consider more stringent regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers. These middlemen negotiate drug discounts for insurers, but consumers rarely see direct savings as a result.

Likewise, many insurance companies refuse to let patients count drug company discounts on their deductibles. As a result, insurers are essentially paid twice, while patients end up with high out-of-pocket costs.

Fortunately, the Democratic bill includes a cap on reimbursable patient fees. But that cap won’t go far to help patients if other parts of the bill undermine drug innovation.

I always support President Biden in his fight against cancer and many others.

But he must trust the innovation ecosystem that has saved the lives of millions of patients. I urge him and his allies on Capitol Hill to re-evaluate proposals that, instead of producing cures for the moon, would derail these therapies on the launch pad, leaving patients with no hope or better options for it. to come up.

Paul Hastings is CEO of Nkarta Therapeutics in San Francisco and President of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a biotechnology business group.


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