Eli Lilly Chairman Stresses the Importance of Biopharmaceutical Innovation on the Economy

October 17, 2012
Susan Haigney

Susan Haigney is managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technologyand Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, susan.haigney@ubm.com.

The recent presidential and vice-presidential debates have highlighted the need for strategies for economic growth in the US, including the roles innovation and trade play in stimulating the US economy.

The recent presidential and vice-presidential debates have highlighted the need for strategies for economic growth in the US, including the roles innovation and trade play in stimulating the US economy. Eli Lilly Chairman, President and CEO John C. Lechleiter recently weighed in on the issue with respect to the pharmaceutical industry in offering his perspective on the importance of including data exclusivity provisions for biologics as found in US law for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional free trade pact in Asia under negotiation.

Emphasizing America’s advances in innovation over the past two centuries, Lechleiter asks in an op-ed piece for Forbes, “how [do we] best sustain America’s capacity for innovation in the face of accelerating global competition?” Lechleiter believes the TPP is a vital channel that will lower barriers among nations, boost investment, and broaden the reach of products and services. Investors, according to Lechleiter, will be “more likely to risk ample capital…if they know that the markets for the products that follow are large and welcoming.” Also, emphasizing the importance of job growth, Lechleiter points out that the biopharmaceutical industry “supports some four million American jobs” that spurs biomedical research and has “kept us in a position of global leadership in this important sector. The TPP can expand America’s capacity for innovation, help create jobs here at home, and extend the reach of life-saving medicines to patients everywhere,” says Lechleiter.

In welcoming the benefits of free trade, however, Lechleiter also raised some concerns in considering the TPP. Lechleiter stresses the need for strong intellectual property protections, citing the US’s Affordable Care Act, and believes that nations involved in TPP should commit to a 12-year data protection period similar to US law.  He believes the US and other countries involved in TPP negotiations will set the standards for countries, such as China, that are not part of the agreement. “We cannot sacrifice the fundamental incentives that drive biomedical R&D investments,” he says in the op-ed piece.

Looking to improve access to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group market, the US is participating in the TPP along with more than 10 other countries. Canada and Mexico recently joined the trade talks earlier this month. The US Chamber of Commerce has stated that the TPP “represents a vital opportunity to ensure that American exporters have access to the world’s most dynamic economies” and recommends that negotiations exclude no products or sectors, establish strong intellectual property rules, break regulatory barriers, and create due process on antitrust enforcement.

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to globalize and new markets become increasingly important for industry growth, balancing free trade and innovation and safeguarding intellectual property make for sound policy.

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