Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement on the legislation introduced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Tom Allen of Maine.)
"Biotechnology companies have a proven track record in developing new drugs and vaccines for the most intractable, life-threatening diseases. Most of these diseases, such as heart disease, various cancers, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, strike our older citizens more than any other age group.
"BIO supports helping older citizens gain access to the latest more therapies, but price controls, in whatever disguise they are presented, are counterproductive. The first test for any Medicare legislation is that it should not deter biotech drug development for the very people Medicare is designed to protect.
"The challenge is how do we get biotech drugs to older citizens in an affordable manner, but not at the expense of our ability to create innovative new therapies and cures.
"Price controls in the United States will cripple life-saving drug development because many companies, especially small biotech firms, will not be able to afford the research effort if the return is not great enough to attract private investors the primary source of billions of dollars spent each year on new therapies. I would hope that Congress has not forgotten how the mere talk of price controls during the 1993-94 Clinton health care debate hindered biotech companies from raising research money.
"Last year alone, U.S. biotech companies spent more than $9 more billion on research. Although our biotech industry is the acknowledged worldwide leader in innovative drug development, most biotech companies have yet to make any profits.
"More than 80 biotech medicines are on the market and hundreds more are under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These drugs aim to reduce expensive time spent in hospitals and long-term care institutions while improving quality of life.
"Trying to cut health care costs by undermining biotech drug development efforts, which have proved effective in lessening the economic burden posed by diseases particularly age-related ones is miserably wrongheaded. Improvements to Medicare should encourage, not discourage, new biotech drug development."
BIO represents more than 830 biotechnology companies, academic institutions and state biotechnology centers in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural and environmental biotechnology products.