Prix Galien Panel Stirs on Pricing

November 2, 2015
Casey McDonald

Casey McDonald is Senior Editor, Pharmaceutical Executive.

Prix Galien USA had its day, a fall tradition bringing the celebs of the biopharma industry to New York City for discussion and debate and a night of glitz. Casey McDonald reports.

Prix Galien USA had its day, a fall tradition bringing the celebs of the biopharma industry to New York City for discussion and debate and a night of glitz. As in years past, the Prix Galien Forum, a day-long event with panel discussions covering topics from autism to the microbiota to gene therapy held at the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences, took on the big questions confronting the industry, namely drug pricing.

The healthcare reform panel, titled US Health Reform: Partnering, Pricing and Politics was clearly the most anticipated of the event judging by the standing room only crowd. Outspoken physician, Peter Bach, Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes and author of the controversial Drug Abicus, was perhaps the biggest surprise. Not scheduled to appear, moderator Roy Vagelos, Chairman of the Board of Regeneron, Retired Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Merck & Co. and master of the forum’s ceremonies, was pleased to add a chair. Sitting on the same panel might have been awkward for Merck & Co’s current CEO, Ken Frazier, but the debate remained civil and the group seemed to agree more than it disagreed.

Clearly, industry officials don’t seem to have much trouble finding a common villain in the debate - coining the newest twitter phrase #pharmabro for the much maligned Turing CEO.

Frazier says he wants to publicly disassociate the pharma industry versus the #pharmabro. $mrk#PrixGalien

- Matthew Herper (@matthewherper) October 27, 2015

The panel remained civil with relatively non-controversial statements from the CEO like the need for the industry to come together.

"We need to work together across the health system to provide both access and better outcomes to patients." - Ken Frazier #PrixGalien

- Merck (@Merck) October 27, 2015

While pointing out that R&D is crucial and the real threat of bankruptcy for the healthcare system comes not from the high prices of biopharmaceuticals, but from the potential deluge if the industry fails to begin finding solutions for Alzheimer’s disease.

Frazier: "this country will be bankrupt if we don't get a disease modifying drug for Alzheimer's disease." #PrixGalien

- Matthew Herper (@matthewherper) October 27, 2015

As the panel ran deep into its Q&A time allotment, salient words came from Acorda Therapeutics’ CEO Ron Cohen who took the mic to ask a “question” - more of a tirade. Why is drug pricing such a big question, when systemic costs take up such a massive portion of the healthcare bill with virtually no accountability, he asked rhetorically? Cohen pointed to an example of a patient who purchased a cancer drug on his own, and when it came time to pay for the infusion, the patient received estimates at $20,000 to $30,000 from large institutions, like Memorial Sloan Kettering, and $500 at a private office.

Clearly, the pricing debate has taken on a life of its own given the viral nature of vitriol for one pharmabro, and the entry of the political talking heads. But with the Prix Galien Forum, taking place less than 13 months from the 2016 election, next year’s should be exceedingly interesting. I suggest the organizers get a bigger venue next year. Maybe the whole day can take place underneath the American Museum of Natural History’s great blue whale! Also of interest at the forum, a panel dedicated to the advancing science of the microbiota. One panel member asked, how do we turn this knowledge into an actual, drug-like product? There is a great need to better understand, classify, quality control these products, the panel explained.

#PrixGalien getting to #fecaltransplants as drugs-Understand dose, engraftment, short&long term. Need to better characterize donor samples

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) October 27, 2015

Obesity seen as job vacancies in #microbiota of gut. #PrixGalien You aren’t dining alone!

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) October 27, 2015

Also extremely interesting, in a world full of smart technologies, smart phones, smart cars, perhaps smart toilets could be next to better diagnose and monitor our health.

#smartphones#smartwatches look out for #smarttoilets next - Loads of data!

- Pharm Exec Magazine (@PharmExecutive) October 27, 2015

Can smart toilets tell us if we need to change exercise, diet or #drug regimen in the future? #microbiota#bigdata#PrixGalien#gutmicrobes

- Kimberly Ha (@pharmaprodigy) October 27, 2015

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