Our advocacy expert Erik Ashlie-Vinke was in D.C. with We Work For Health (WWFH). WWFH is dedicated to promoting the economic benefits of life science business and research for Washington State’s economy and patients around the world. We Work For Health seeks to educate our elected leaders, the news media and the communities they serve about these key contributions of the life science sector in our state. Erik met with Congress members and Senators from Washington State to advocate for the importance of innovation and Research and Development (R&D) in life sciences. Innovation and R&D are vital to job creation in life sciences and finding tomorrow’s future cures.
Our coalition of representatives spoke to the importance of protecting intellectual property rights for new therapeutic innovations. IP protections are the bedrock of many Washington State industries including tech, aerospace, and the life sciences. Annually, life science companies invest more than twice the amount into R&D than aerospace and automotive industries combined. The United States produces 40% of the world’s new medical innovations despite only containing 5% of the world’s population. Protecting the value of innovation in trade negotiations by enforcing existing agreements is a good first step, but seeking future protections that hew closely to US standards guarantees a level playing field for domestic life science companies and ensures a return on investment that encourages future research and development efforts continue.
Passage of the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act (FDARA) was another concern amongst the patient advocates and EASC during the discussion. FDA funding expires on September 30th, 2017. Congress must act soon to ensure that the FDA retains its capacity, both in terms of quantity and quality of staff, to continue to bring new therapeutic innovations to market. The funding reauthorization also provides more opportunities for patient voices to be included throughout the FDA review process, an important component in ensuring the safety and efficacy of new medicines as they are developed.
As the healthcare debate continues forward, the WA delegation highlighted the importance of protecting the Medicare Part D program, as it ensures that seniors and individuals with disabilities continue to have access to breakthrough therapies as they come to market. Limiting access or imposing restrictive formularies would harm patients, have a chilling effect on industry’s ability to invest in new research, and ultimately make the healthcare system costlier down the road.
Lastly, the coalition advocated the importance of FDA oversight for drug importation. Several of our delegation members shared stories of clients from their organizations who had gone online to order prescription medication, only to find they are receiving counterfeit substitutes with no active ingredient, or worse, ingredients that conflict with their current regimen of medication. The delegation was deeply concerned about proposals to open the US to the importation of pharmaceutical products not regulated by the FDA.