This morning, about 1,400 people packed into John Carroll University’s Health Center to hear from Fox News correspondent Rick Salutin, in response to the Trump administration’s decision to make significant cuts to drug research.
They were there to hear Salutin speak about “American Innovations”, a New York Times bestselling book in which he reports on remarkable breakthroughs in every field of medicine from cancer and Alzheimer’s to those fighting opioid addiction. The common denominator is that these achievements are largely due to cutting-edge research in the bioethics area — which has a profound effect on society, both personally and on a macro scale.
Why would Salutin focus on pharmaceutical innovations?
One obvious reason is his faith that pharmaceutical innovation is too important to be left to Big Pharma.
There are a number of compelling reasons for this:
First, bioethics and the business model (the pharma company’s targeted business model) has been in disarray for some time now. Some have concluded that to achieve profitability, bioethics must be shifted to the back burner. They had assumed that as pharma companies were getting squeezed on pricing, bioethics had to go, too. Salutin argues that bioethics must continue to be at the top of the agenda.
Second, bioethics is why pharmaceutical companies have had to accept a change in their business model. Salutin wants to see these companies embrace the correct business model — one that takes into account the public good.
Third, pharmaceutical innovations are important to their major global competitors. For example, Big Pharma companies need to prepare for the day that they won’t be able to continue to market drugs from their old patents. What was once a lucrative source of profits is an obstacle that will soon be a cost, rather than a benefit. The drug manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of R&D.
Fourth, the Trump administration has made cuts to the R&D budget. This will stifle the R&D efforts of many of the largest bioethics research institutions, such as Columbia University and Dartmouth University. And this happened just as venture capitalists are now showing increasing interest in “high risk, high return” life sciences technologies.
Fifth, a number of countries around the world have regulatory mechanisms that encourage young companies to invest in cutting-edge R&D and chase after additional, potentially groundbreaking drug discovery. This could be a valuable incentive for advanced entrepreneurs in the United States to make the same investment in the U.S. — the natural place to do so.
Sixth, science is transitioning away from the me-too approach of 30 years ago, which saw hundreds of drugs for every disease, including many that ended up failing to actually treat patients. The world is moving toward drug discovery that targets the specific problems that each patient is experiencing.
Seventh, bioethics applies to virtually every disease, including, potentially, heart disease, where aging is playing a role. The old way of looking at this issue is as more of a convenience — having an older person apply a pill to the human heart with the hope that he or she would get stronger and more vigorous. That approach was never going to work for most people. The new approach is to treat the real health issues. And this is exactly what is needed — for the heart, for the brain, for Parkinson’s, and so on.
Finally, bioethics has an impact on human health in several significant ways. Research on how best to treat Alzheimer’s is grounded in bioethics. If old age was not considered a disease at all, the medical community would be much further behind in understanding how to manage it. And bioethics needs to be at the forefront of medical research in order to solve this problem.
If you care about the health of patients — and especially about those older Americans — Salutin’s “American Innovations” is your must-read book.
Rick Salutin is an award-winning journalist who hosts the “Salutin on Health” show on the Fox Business Network. He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “American Innovations: How Breakthrough Science Created Health, Wealth and Freedom”.