WASHINGTON, D.C., August 29, 2000 - Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, issued the following statement on the national debate over seniors' access to prescription drug coverage:
"The presidential debate on access to prescription drugsfor seniors is fast becoming a top campaign issue for both candidates and their parties," BIO President Carl B. Feldbaum said. "But any political posturing on this issue threatens to undermine what's really at stake in the debate to reform Medicare: the health and quality of life of senior citizens today and tomorrow.
"One of the ironies in this debate is that the biotechnologyindustry has the most to offer seniors in the way of innovative drugs and at the same time is most vulnerable to a political quick fix on Medicare.
"The biotechnology industry, with its new genomics toolsand record of innovation is creating breakthrough drugs to treat many diseases including those that affect senior citizens the most such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic renal failure.
"This industry supports a prescription drug plan that providesaccess to all medicines for seniors, especially those who are the sickest and neediest," Feldbaum said.
"We urge both presidential candidates to explain to thevoters not only how their plans will help seniors gain access to prescription drugs, but also how those plans will encourage innovative drug development to improve the health and quality of life of seniors now and in the future.
"A number of choices for Medicare reform are availableand we would ask the candidates to remember that 90 percent of the companies in our industry are small, independent businesses still in the research stage with no products or revenues to fund their research. These companies are totally dependent on private sector investment for new drug research. Any public policy that implements government price controls could squelch investment and discourage the entrepreneurship that has made the United States the world leader in developing innovative medicines.
"That entrepreneurship has created nearly 100 newbiotech drugs and vaccines, which have brought relief to more than 250 million people," Feldbaum said. "Another 350 biotech medicines are in late-stage clinical trials. That entrepreneurship also has created an industry that employs a half million people in the United States and spends more than $10 billion a year in research and development - much of that on diseases and conditions suffered by seniors.
Copies of letters BIO sent to presidential candidates, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush, are available on BIO's Web site (www.bio.org) in the News section.