The Financial Times (FT), the venerable business news outlet, hosted its annual U.S. Healthcare & Life Sciences Summit in New York City on May 12 where pharmaceutical executives, medical researchers, and professionals of a similar ilk congregated to discuss the colossal transformations occurring within the healthcare sector.
The day began with a one-on-one conversation between Alex Gorsky, the chairman of the board and CEO of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), and David Crow, the FT’s senior U.S. business correspondent. Gorsky started his pharmaceutical career as a sales representative for Janssen in 1998 where he worked his way up the ranks becoming CEO of the pharma giant in April 2012 and chairman of the board the following year.
Crow kicked things off by asking Gorsky for his thoughts on the state of healthcare. The executive responded saying it’s a bit of the best and worst times in the industry right now.
On the positive end of the spectrum, Gorsky explained he was encouraged about the diversity of innovation he’s been seeing across J&J’s consumer healthcare, medical devices, and pharmaceutical divisions.
J&J reported a strong first quarter of this year primarily due to strong prescription sales for immune disorder therapies and blood cancer treatments. The company is also working on ambitious projects like an initiative in which the firm is seeking to predict how individuals will develop certain diseases and identify treatments while still in early stages.
Gorsky elaborated that game-changing new drugs like the arrival of biosimilars along with strategies from world leaders designed to address public health needs are signs that the industry is moving in the right direction.
The J&J CEO then shifted the discussion to the topic of drug pricing.
“There’s always more we can do and more we must do,” explained Gorsky, in terms of searching for and developing new drugs as well as identifying the best methods for providing care to patients at an affordable price.
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, and Gilead Sciences have brought the issue of appropriate drug pricing to national attention. Shkreli raised the cost of parasitic infection treatment Daraprim by 5,000 percent in September. Valeant attracted scrutiny after aggressively acquiring drugs and drastically raising the price tags of these medications while Gilead, the maker of potent hepatitis C drugs Harvoni and Sovaldi, who placed high price tags on these therapies become the target of critics who believed this limited access.
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Gorsky noted that there was impressive innovation in the hepatitis C space, but suggested a shift to outcomes-based payment plans could be the best way to get these drugs to the people who need them.
It’s a strategy that rivals like Novartis are testing for its blockbuster heart failure drug Entresto, in which insurers like Cigna provide payments to Novartis after seeing how well the drug improved the health of patients.
Gorsky explained to the audience at the FT summit that getting a drug approved as well as pricing it correctly is crucial in order to ensure people have access and can get reimbursed.
“If we bring innovation to the market but people can’t access it, we don’t feel like we’re fulfilling our mission,” he added.
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Filed Under: Drug Discovery