The Daily Rise: Thursday, April 21

March-in, Innovation Out

Over at the Washington Times, Peter Rheinstein, the president of Severn Health Solutions and a former president of the Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research, argues that the use of “march-in” rights to force lower drug prices could threaten innovation and medical research.

“The use of march-in rights to control drug prices could defeat the purpose of Bayh-Dole and chill investment in biopharmaceuticals and other sectors that license technologies,” Rheinstein writes. “In particular, this tactic would undermine innovation and threaten the sustainability of the U.S. research and development ecosystem.”

Wait… What exactly are “march-in” rights? The power was included in the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act and grants the government power to step in and seize control of intellectual property. The controversial provision has never been used, but now, some are proposing the provision be implemented as a way to forcibly lower drug prices.

Today, many of our medical breakthroughs are funded from collaborative research, which can be funded in part by federal research grants. When Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, it was intended as a way to ensure that the government’s involvement in research didn’t obstruct innovation. As we’ve written previously, government research prioritizes publishing achievements for researchers — not treatment gains for patients.

“Prior to the enactment of Bayh-Dole, the government owned approximately 26,000 patents, only 5 percent of which had been used in the private sector,” Rheinstein explains. “Taxpayers were funding groundbreaking research. But since so few inventions were being licensed for drug development, Americans weren’t seeing the full benefits.”

Patients should be aware: march-in rights move out innovation.

Sea Change in Treating Cancer

This week, the buzz is all about the potential of immunotherapy.

Earlier this week, we shared the news that immunotherapy has helped double the long-term survival rates for melanoma patients. Now comes word that “the medications, which marshal the body’s own immune defenses, are now having some effect against recurrent, difficult-to-treat head and neck cancer and an extremely lethal skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma.”

The Washington Post’s Laurie McGinley reports that “these advances suggest the treatment approach is poised to become a critical part of the nation’s anti-cancer strategy.”

“We are in the midst of a sea change in how we are treating cancer,” says Louis Weiner, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We’re really seeing the fruits of many years of research into what drives cancer and how it interacts with the immune system to defeat it and survive.”

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune defenses to fight diseases. More patients are learning about its potential thanks to the high-profile treatment obtained by former President Jimmy Carter.

“What’s happening to Jimmy Carter is happening to many, many people,” says Louis Weiner, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Getting Connected

At Patients Rising, we believe that at the core of everything we do is connection. That’s why we’re pleased to read Caitlin Owens’ latest piece at Morning Consult on how drug companies and insurance companies are talking about ways to better connect about new treatments in the pipeline — before they reach the market.

“Participants in both industries say that if they could communicate with each other before new drugs hit the market, it would ease the pain for insurers and patients,” Owens reports. “New drugs often hit the market after insurers have set their rates for the year. They say they aren’t able to plan for the new drugs ahead of time, which means either the insurance plans or the patients have to pay the price.

“Say for example, a drug comes out in September [or] October, and we didn’t have a window into what those costs would be. Plans didn’t anticipate or factor that into their rates,” Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, tells Morning Consult. “That could be a huge pressure for premiums. It could be a huge pressure for patient costs.”

We see cooperation and more information as a positive development for patients.

“I think it’s one way to help,” says Jeff Francer, vice president and senior counsel at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We feel it’s important to get this type of pipeline information to payers more quickly than they’re getting it now.”

Going Green

In recognition of Earth Day, we share a reminder that going green is good for your health.

According to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, people who live in green belts had “a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places.”

Although the research didn’t offer a specific reason for the improved health, there are the obvious benefits of improved mental health and increased physical activity.

“This is all in line with the ways previous research has suggested greenness can affect health. Places with more vegetation are generally thought to be less polluted, and the presence of vegetation, itself, can help keep air cleaner,” Chelsea Harvey notes at the Washington Post. “And green spaces like parks can help encourage people to get outside, exercise and engage with other people — all factors that can improve overall health.”

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