In Speaker Pelosi’s Extreme Drug Pricing Bill, Funding for NIH is MIA

BIOtech Now
Brian Newell

Supporters of Speaker Pelosi’s extreme drug pricing bill (H.R. 3) want us to believe that they can destroy the biopharmaceutical industry and still produce new cures and treatments for patients in need. The crux of this fairy tale is the promise by supporters of H.R. 3 to reinvest “savings” from the bill back into the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But there are two significant problems with this empty promise.

Problem #1: H.R. 3 does NOT reinvest savings back into the NIH. The legislative language simply doesn’t exist in the bill. As Inside Health Policy recently reported: “House Dems Have Not Yet Funded NIH With Savings From Pelosi Rx Plan.” This despite lengthy consideration of the bill by various committees on Capitol Hill. The story notes that “instead of funding NIH research, the committees thus far decided to add dental, vision and hearing benefits to Medicare.”

So instead of a plan that encourages the development of new medicines, we have a bill that nonpartisan budget experts warn will stifle the development of future treatments and one relying on high hopes that a future Congress will appropriate the funding necessary for the NIH to replace the loss in private-sector R&D spending (which reached $165 billion globally in 2017).

Problem #2: H.R. 3 is based on a false premise of how drug development works. The NIH does NOT develop new medicines. In fact, the overwhelming majority of NIH work is basic research on biological targets, not the drugs themselves. And it’s been estimated that 90% of new drugs originate entirely from industry research.

Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, chief medical officer at Flagship Pioneering, recently explained in the Boston Globe how “drug invention typically works.” When it comes to the role of the NIH:

“The National Institutes of Health funds research in its own labs and awards grants to scientists at universities and nonprofit research institutes. The vast majority of these researchers aren’t actually designing and developing drugs; rather, they’re exploring scientific questions fundamental to medicine, like how the body’s organs, cells, and systems work and the ways in which ‘normal’ changes to ‘disease.’ They hope that some of their findings and insights will point the way toward drug invention.”

And just as importantly, when it comes to the role of researchers and scientists in the private sector, Dr. Rosenblatt writes:

“If a promising biological target is identified, a life-sciences company — either a small start-up or a pharmaceutical company — will begin exploring how to translate the research into a medically useful invention. Biotech startups typically raise funds from venture capital investors or public markets in order to support this research. Large pharmaceutical companies fund the research out of current revenues …”

Dr. Rosenblatt notes that “hundreds of new medicines have come out of this process.” And let’s not forget there are countless other potential treatments waiting to be discovered for patients facing myriad ailments and diseases.

We shouldn’t allow empty promises to destroy an ecosystem that develops more new medicines than the rest of the world combined. Policymakers should reject H.R. 3 and advance real solutions that lead to lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients and future biomedical innovation.

Click here for more information on how the vital public-private partnership for drug discovery really works.

To learn more about why H.R. 3 would hurt patients and future innovation, visit

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