We live in a golden age of medicines. In the last century, new medical developments have turned diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS from almost certainly terminal into manageable or even curable conditions. Legislation, such as the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, has sped up the creation and delivery of new medicines to people in need while encouraging even more investment by pharmaceutical companies. And more than ever, patients have the opportunity to become a part of the puzzle to discovering and bringing new medicines to market; for example, by being encouraged to meet with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to share their personal perspective on how they live with their diagnoses.
Collaboration between patients, pharmaceutical companies, and regulatory agencies like the FDA has helped create these advances--and we heard proof of that at the BIO International Convention last week. Dr. David Meeker, CEO of pharmaceutical company Genzyme, called his company's partnership with the patient community essential: "It's much more than just a 'nice to have'." Patrick Wildman, Vice President of Policy at the ALS Association, also emphasized the importance of teamwork. "Patients, industry, and the FDA need to work together" to advance science, he said.
Collaboration throughout the drug discovery process is a must. Take, for example, the rising threat (and burgeoning cost) of Alzheimer's. Our largest generation is quickly becoming our oldest, and more than 5 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's. In 2016 alone, our nation will spend $236 billion caring for Alzheimer's patients in direct costs alone. If nothing is done to stem the growth of dementia, especially Alzheimer's, experts predict that the patient population will rise dramatically in the coming years. For the sake of both our communities and our economy, collaboration has to be a key ingredient to our strategy of researching and discovering treatments for Alzheimer's and other diseases taking a toll on us.
Across the industry, from industry to regulators, insurers, and payers, there is both an opportunity for, and imperative to pursue, greater collaborations. This is a golden age in drug discovery, but to keep the momentum we will have to work together.