New Jersey is an AIDS “hotspot,” according to CBS News. The statistics show why. In 2012, nearly 2,000 state residents were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Roughly 400 people died from the disease.
Thanks to advances in treatment, however, this disease is no longer a death sentence. Fatality rates from AIDS have dropped nearly 85 percent over the last two decades, and are still declining.
But the future of medical progress is far from certain. In fact, some politicians in Washington are advocating for new measures that could impede life sciences innovation for years to come. Their proposals would jeopardize patient health and put a vital segment of New Jersey’s economy at risk.
The fight against AIDS is a clear example of how biopharmaceutical research saves lives. However, AIDS isn’t the only biopharma success story. Patients with conditions from diabetes to cancer enjoy longer, healthier lives thanks to recent advances in biopharmaceutical treatment.
Despite these life-saving advancements, we continue to face formidable medical challenges. That is why teams of scientists at biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies here in New Jersey and across the nation work daily to research and discover the next generation of medical innovations that will alleviate other life-threatening diseases.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 41 new medications — the highest number since 1996. These included new Hepatitis C treatments that boast cure rates of over 90 percent as well as the first immunotherapies for cancer.
More good news: If research and development spending is any indication, more cures are on the way. Biopharmaceutical companies, which have long been an invaluable part of the New Jersey economy, are investing heavily in R&D. Nationwide, the industry spent over $51 billion creating new treatments, cures and diagnostic tools in 2012.
That spending contributes greatly to the Garden State’s economy. New Jersey’s life sciences industry contributed $30.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2013. What’s more, biopharmaceutical innovation creates jobs. Local life sciences firms directly employ over 66,000 people. The industry indirectly support another 146,000 workers.
In addition, in 2013, New Jersey biopharmaceutical companies had more than 9,300 vendor relationships throughout the state. They purchased nearly $6.4 billion in goods and services from these local businesses.
In short, biopharma and biotech firms are an integral part of the state’s economy. But now, short-sighted legislation could stifle this economic progress.
One such threat is patent litigation legislation, which is currently being considered by Congress. While certain advocates tout the proposal as a way to cut down on unfounded patent lawsuits, in reality, as presented, the law would make protecting intellectual property a costly, time-consuming process.
Given that patents play an essential role in the life sciences industry, the proposed reform poses a direct threat to the future of medical innovation. If life sciences firms are unable to protect their inventions from theft in a court of law, they will have little incentive to risk their huge investments in new research.
Another major threat from Washington faced by New Jersey’s biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies relates to the president’s budget, which proposes drastic changes to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit for the nation’s seniors.
If passed, price controls on certain drugs, in effect, would be imposed, requiring drug makers to sell medicines to the government at costs far below the investment in R&D necessary to discover new medical treatments and cures.
The impact would be harsh and far-reaching. The lost revenue for life sciences companies would mean a diversion of funds from R&D of new medicines, fewer jobs in New Jersey, and, most importantly, fewer treatments for devastating illnesses.
Researching and taking a new medicine to the global marketplace is complex, high-risk, time-consuming and extremely costly. Today, it often takes longer than a decade and costs about $2.6 billion to research and develop a new drug and bring it to market. Consequently, if biopharmaceutical and biotechnology firms scale back on drug development, we will see fewer new cures — and a slowdown in job creation and economic growth.
New Jersey’s representatives in Washington have long recognized the importance of fostering and protecting the innovation environment that is critical to finding the next generation of treatments and cures.
We urge our policymakers to continue protecting patients and New Jersey’s economy by rejecting ill-conceived and anti-innovation proposals that could detrimentally impact our state’s economic well-being, and, more importantly, patients’ well-being here at home and around the globe.