It’s been less than a month since Donald J. Trump was selected as the 45th President of the U.S. Along with our new President-elect comes many questions about how healthcare may evolve. And, last week industry leaders gathered at the 5th annual Forbes Healthcare Summit to discuss these far-reaching implications and some of the biggest issues facing healthcare today. Pharmaceutical company, hospital and biotech executives, along with researchers, insurers and providers were among those challenged to think big, exchange ideas and look for solutions during the event.
Medical aspirations – curing cancer in 20 years, sequencing genomes of newborns, use of virtual reality in medicine and research into Lewy body dementia – were just some of the topics on the agenda, but nearly every panel came back to one fundamental issue and that was the topic of pricing. Retailers and manufacturers talked value; hospitals and providers debated changes to the business model for treating patients; and researchers and entrepreneurs stressed the cost of inventing medical breakthroughs. While they all came from different vantage points in the ecosystem, at the heart of the debate was a genuine struggle around the economics of today’s healthcare industry.
A few of the notable discussions around cost and drug pricing included:
- A conversation about drug pricing between Express Scripts SVP and Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller, M.D., and Allergan CEO Brent Saunders, moderated by Matthew Herper, Senior Editor, Pharma & Healthcare, Forbes Media, kicked off the day.
- Novartis CEO, Joe Jimenez, engaged in a one-on-one conversation with Herper about how his company balances investing in breakthrough medicines with the costs to the healthcare system.
- Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, discussed the company’s EpiPen pricing decisions and the public outcry.
- The day’s final panel, which included CEOs from Pfizer, Gilead, Eli Lilly and Regeneron and Astellas’ U.S. President, took on the topic of restoring the industry’s reputation, and drug pricing was at the core of the debate.
Other issues or challenges that impact the economics of healthcare, including aging population, longer life expectancy, more complex clinical development programs, lack of transparency within the supply chain, use and rapid evolution of technology, and the Affordable Care Act, were woven throughout the dialogue with leaders and experts. The conversations consistently shed light on why these areas are so complex and the paths to discover solutions are not simple ones.
Despite the debate, there was common ground. Nearly all participants agreed that not one organization can solve these multifaceted and big issues alone. All of those involved in the healthcare ecosystem must come together for the benefit of the patients. The sticking points were in how that collaboration can happen and what it could look like. There were no clear answers, but there was a clear and urgent call to action. The time is now for industry leaders to come up with solutions and police themselves, especially in this post-election period, or risk government repercussions.