Bernie's Terrible Tweet

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 10/23/2016
In a recent tweet, Senator Bernie Sanders made it clear he’s upset about high drug prices. Less clear is that his righteous wrath will put patients in harm’s way.  He proved yet again he’s uninformed about the facts and unconcerned about the unintended consequences of his actions.

The target of Senator Sanders terrible tweet was a small innovative pharmaceutical company (Ariad Pharmaceuticals) and its innovative drug Iclusig (for chronic myeloid leukemia treatment). The company raised the price – and Senator Sanders can’t see why. He should open his eyes.

A few facts that are worth sharing. The first is that Iclusig serves a population of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 patients. And these patients have limited options. Ariad Pharmaceuticals, works to ensures that no patient is prevented from treatment due to price. (They provide a robust support program for patients who have accessibility and affordability concerns.)

Second, these types of ultra-orphan disease cancer patient population programs require large investments and face tremendous odds.  Ariad sure doesn’t look profitable. They’ve invested more than $1.3 billion in R&D and accumulated losses of approximately $1.4 billion since the company was founded. But they’re betting on innovation. In 2015, Ariad generated $119 million in total revenue and invested $171 million, or 143% of revenue, in R&D alone.

Third and most importantly, Iclusig works.  It significantly increases 10-year survival rates for patients with no other hope or option except for expensive stem cell transplants and draconian radiation treatments.

Attention Senator Sanders. It’s not just a question of an ecosystem-driven price. It’s also about investment and value – precisely the rationale behind the Orphan Drug Act -- to encourage investment in treatments for small and in this case, tiny, populations. “Facts,” as John Adams quipped, “are pesky things.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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