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Finger Pointing Won’t Solve the Opioid Crisis. Innovation Will

October 23, 2017
In his column, the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof’s does a disservice to the millions of men and women who have dedicated their lives to developing new cures and treatments for the world’s most devastating diseases. To equate their work to drug pushers is demeaning and out of bounds.

Mr. Kristof asserts that visiting a cemetery lets you see the consequences of unfettered pharma.  In fact, the opposite is true. The front of the New York Times own business section in that same day’s paper highlights an historic development: a “new class of treatments that genetically reboot a patient’s own immune cells to kill cancer.” Patients with untreatable forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma now have hope because of breakthroughs developed by the biopharmaceutical industry.

The industry Kristof disparages also saves millions of lives in the communities where his reporting takes him. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that vaccinations prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.

The opioid epidemic is real and it is destructive…and there is finger pointing to go around, but that will not solve this crisis. The only way to solve this crisis is through innovative thinking.

Today, roughly 100 million Americans report suffering from chronic pain. That’s more people than suffer from diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined. Prescription opioids have helped many patients treat acute and chronic pain. But we also know the facts about addiction and abuse.

That’s why our industry is working hard to transform the standard of care for pain management through non-addictive, next-generation therapies. It’s why there are more than 85 companies working on novel pain therapies and more than 110 clinical programs for novel pain drugs, and 24 clinical trial programs for addiction treatment.

The work our companies are doing is both exciting and potentially game changing. If Kristof wants to be productive, he can use his column to help push for a policy and regulatory environment that can speed the pace of these innovations.

In addition to these new treatments, we also are seeing more biopharmaceutical manufacturers increase their education efforts and revamp their business practices. They also are working on the development of opioid formulations that prevent or deter improper use, addiction and abuse. These are efforts we should embrace and encourage.

Tackling this issue is one of the most important challenges we face as a society today. By bringing together the best minds in the public and private sector, we can harness the knowledge we need to save lives today and to spare future generations from this national epidemic.