Please Mr. President, stand up for patients The Chandler Arizonan

Please Mr. President, stand up for patients

Please Mr. President, stand up for patients

By Heather Sandstrom
Guest Writer

The entire world has turned its attention to the biopharmaceutical industry. With COVID-19 spreading through Arizona and beyond, we’re all hoping for a vaccine breakthrough to save lives and enable us to get back to normal.

That’s why President Donald Trump’s “most favored nation” executive order undermining pharmaceutical research is so troubling.

Why, at this critical juncture, would he sign and implement a price control system that would strangle companies’ programs aimed at discovering new treatments and cures for all types of disease? Why would he suddenly impose an International Pricing Index?

I’m originally from Canada, and I know a thing or two about price controls because Canada has socialized medicine where the government decides everything. What many Americans don’t realize is the impact of such top-down mandates on patients’ access to advanced treatments.

Because of price controls, only about half of newer cancer therapies are available today in Canada, for example. Patients here in America’s free market system, on the other hand, can use nearly all of them, a full 96 percent.

This is why I’m extremely disappointed the President chose to move forward with his plan to match medication prices to those set by bureaucrats in Canada, France, Japan and other countries. Our patients will suffer the same limits on biopharmaceutical choice as patients abroad do. Do you really want foreign nations to essentially decide whether you or a loved one may obtain a life-saving treatment? I don’t.

In fact, I might not be here today if I had faced restrictions on the medications my doctors could use to treat the tumor they found in my brain. The day I was diagnosed was the scariest I’ve ever endured. I thought I was looking at the end. But instead, I survived because of access to new, innovative treatments. Throughout the process, I relied on various prescription medications to keep my body strong and to ease my pain.

This fight left me extraordinarily grateful for the years of effort and investment required to find, test, and bring to market any new medicine. I know firsthand the difference even modest improvements in safer pain medications or better chemotherapies can make.

So, when I hear that an International Pricing Index would force three out of four pharmaceutical companies to reduce or eliminate current and future R&D projects, I worry.

What if development of the more than 1,100 cancer therapies currently in progress were to halt? What if research on medications targeting other devastating diseases, from Alzheimer’s to MS, were to slow? How many lives would be irremediably harmed or cut short, and how many families would be deeply affected by struggle and loss that could have been avoided?

These days, we are all too familiar with having a dangerous illness hanging over our heads. But for many people with serious conditions, the threat and life impacts of disease were already there, then exacerbated by this pandemic.

Every patient deserves an all-out, never-give-up effort to create the therapies they need. They are worthy of the same level of investment the nation is currently making to defeat COVID-19. We cannot let ill-conceived price controls stand in the way of curing their disease.

But first, we need President Trump’s attention. He must revoke this executive order that establishes an International Pricing Index. We need to stand up for patients.

Heather Sandstrom is the president pf Arizona Republican Women.

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