For Big Ideas, Big Action Is Needed

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-07-01-2015, Volume 28, Issue 7
Pages: 6

As biopharma enjoys success, it cannot ignore pressing patient access questions.


At the 2015 Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention, held in Philadelphia in mid-June, all indicators showed that the industry was riding a record wave of success.

According to a BIO post-event press release (1), more than 15,800 industry players from 69 countries, 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico attended. A record number of partnering meetings-27,279 meetings between 3100 companies-illustrated the convention’s business focus.

Business was good for the biotech industry in 2014; in fact, it was a record-setting year, reports Ernst & Young (E&Y) in its 29th annual report, Beyond Borders, Biotechnology Industry Report 2015 (2). The report cites record revenues, profitability, financing, and drug approvals as signs of a healthy market.

In the established biotech areas of the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada, revenues increased 24% in 2014; R&D spending increased by 20%. A robust stock market and large number of initial public offerings pushed the biotech industry capitalization in the US to more than $1 trillion for the first time, E&Y reports.

The report authors, however, warned that the biotechnology industry cannot afford to become complacent, but must work with patients, payers, providers, and governments to develop new products for unmet medical needs, as well as ways to improve care delivery and health outcomes. The industry must also play a role in developing payment schemes to give patients better access to breakthrough drugs.

In a keynote discussion, Tom Brokaw, the award-winning journalist, reiterated the need for a discussion about patient access to crucial drugs. A long-time observer of US business, politics, culture, and society, Brokaw has added first-person experience as a patient undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma. 


Brokaw noted that patients, drug companies, and doctors do not speak the same language. The nation, he says, needs an all-inclusive health plan that makes the price of drugs affordable to all.

To achieve this, the US needs a “big idea” debate on healthcare, Brokaw said. However, in the current American political system, there are no big ideas. Partisan politics, cable news, social media, and professional and amateur political commentators contribute to a lack of direction and desire to solve the nation’s pressing issues.

To illustrate how the desire to achieve a “big idea” requires cooperation and sacrifice, Brokaw recounted the efforts of US paratroopers in the D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944. When the soldiers dropped behind enemy lines in France, they were separated from their units and were scattered across the countryside. They assembled with others near them to form makeshift units and accepted their new orders. The soldiers did not stop to argue about what platoons or units the fighters were from; they simply went about the business of liberating Europe, a “big idea” of those times. In his 1998 best-selling book, The Greatest Generation, Brokaw related that the soldiers who fought in World War II did so because it was the right thing to do.

The current generation of politicians, payers, patients, and drug companies are challenged with determining “the right thing to do” to achieve one of today’s “big ideas”-affordable, effective drug therapies for all patients. This time, the enemy may be us.

1. Biotechnology Industry Organization, “The 2015 BIO International Convention Closes in Philadelphia,” Press Release (Philadelphia, PA, June 18, 2015).
2. Ernst & Young, Beyond Borders, Biotechnology Industry Report 2015 (2015).


Article DetailsBioPharm International
Vol. 28, No. 7
Page: 6
When referring to this article, please cite it as R. Peters, “For Big Ideas, Big Action Is Needed,” BioPharm International 28 (7) 2015.