Panel discusses perception of overpricing in Biopharma at 2016 Biotech Showcase


While attendance is limited at JP Morgan event, registration is open at the concurrently occurring Biotech Showcase at Park 55, Cyril Magnin Street in SF.  In addition to public and private company presentations, there are exciting panels and talks throughout the day.  Lunchtime panels are also highly exciting.  Yesterday, January 11, lunch panel focused on the drug pricing debate and moderator Mike Griffith, EVP at inVentiv Health, invited panelists to weigh in on the widespread perception that drug companies are constantly overpricing their product.  

Beth Roberts, Partner at Hogan Lovells said that those are soundbites and reality is more complex but complex explanations often lose against sensational sound bites.  Explaining the complex reality, Gregg Alton, EVP at Gilead said, industry regulations often prevent companies from talking freely.  Alton also defended high price of Gilead drugs and said that Gilead gives away many drugs in the developing countries.  He also said, drug pricing in US and Europe is very similar, contradicting the notion that drugs are available at much cheaper price in Europe.  He said, he sleeps well because over half a million people are cured of HepC, on account Giliead’s drugs.

Ron Cohen, CEO with Acorda Therapeutics and Chairman at Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said, biopharma must not be blamed for price hikes.  At least 30% of increase in healthcare related costs is on account of increase in hospital costs.  He added, people have to understand that biotech innovation has to occur over a long period of time and success are few and far between many failures.  “When we seek breakthrough therapies, we have to allow outsize return because there will be failures before successes, and breakthough innovation can only be funded over a long term, added Cohen.  

Sara Radcliffe, President and CEO at California Life Sciences Association (CLSA) said that as long as there are deadly diseases and people are dying from them, it is imperative that biotech innovation continues.  However, biopharma industry often encounters the “good problem” which is, “when a drug is that good, people want it for free”.  According to Keith Kelly, MD at Pricing and Market Access, Campbell Alliance/ inVentiv Health Consulting, biopharma is an exceptional industry that focuses on healing.  Cohen added, we should be proud of the contribution we make to the quality of life.

All panelists emphasized the need to engage with the media and public at large and advance better explanations for people to understand what lies behind the pricing strategy.  Panelists also stressed the need to main integrity at all costs and keep the focus on quality of care and patient safety, at all times.




  1. #1 by Dawn Isis on January 12, 2016 - 11:07 am

    Very interesting, and good summaries, Darshana! I notice no one mentioned any role for the government in subsidizing expensive but essential new drugs for patients, or any ways to lower costs. It certainly IS a complex subject. What about Prizes to compensate the developers of successful new drugs, allowing for lower prices? Some outside-the-box thinking is needed…

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