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Pricing, Breakthrough Treatments, and Digital Health Look Strong for 2020


Pharmaceutical Executive

A view of 2020 Industry Trends presented from MassBio president and CEO Bob Coughlin.

Drug pricing debate will impact investment decisions

As we head into an election year, 2020 will bring intensified scrutiny around drug pricing as numerous candidates have armed their campaigns with legislation to lower drug costs. This will be even more apparent as both state and federal policymakers aim to pass legislation around drug pricing prior to Election Day to appease constituents and support their own reelection. However, much, if not all, of this legislation will have a disproportional, detrimental impact on small biotechnology companies in the long term. These companies, that serve as the backbone of the industry, are powerhouses of drug research and development, but they rely heavily on venture capital investment to advance their science. We’ve already seen investment in the industry slow in the second half of 2019, and we expect this trend to continue amid a volatile political environment. If investors don’t see a fair return on investment in the biotech industry, a likely outcome of aggressive, punitive legislation, they will take their money elsewhere.

The pipeline of breakthrough treatments and one-time cures will continue to expand

There are currently a finite number of cell and gene therapies available for patients, but as the innovation ecosystem in Massachusetts and beyond continues to expand, I expect an increasingly expansive pipeline of new cell and gene therapies to be approved in 2020 and in the coming years. In fact, the FDA anticipates 200 cell and gene therapy applications per year moving forward. Many of these new therapies that will be approved will take the form of one-time cures-a breakthrough for patients everywhere. But, despite these advancements, questions surrounding patient access and how to pay for these therapies will continue to dominate the conversation. As science progresses, I expect these conversations to as well, and I am hopeful that we will continue to refine and address the value, access, and reimbursement landscape in 2020.

Companies continue to work with healthcare stakeholders to implement innovative payment models

We’ve seen incredible advancements in science over the last few years, as gene and cell therapies become a reality for patients, promising to treat some of the most devastating diseases. Although the value of these therapies is not debated, our payer system is not set up to absorb the higher upfront costs of these treatments and cures. To ensure patient access and payer coverage, we’ll see continued efforts to make innovative payment models, like value-based arrangements, easier to implement. However, it’s unlikely we’ll see a long-term solution within the year, as issues with Medicaid best price and insurance portability will take some time to resolve.

Digital health will continue to gain prominence

Digital health and digital technologies will continue to make waves in 2020 as they gain attraction from biopharma companies. Through digital health, 2020 holds much promise for greater demonstration of the long-term value of treatments by measuring patient outcomes, adherence, and costs avoided to the healthcare system. Mobile apps will be further integrated in healthcare consumption to allow for a more continuous feedback loop between patients and their healthcare providers, which will also create a more complete picture of the patient journey. One of the greatest challenges for next year, however, will be ensuring interoperability so that disparate providers and healthcare systems can actually use and analyze this data.


Bob Coughlin, president and CEO of MassBio

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