Opinion: How a CT prescription drug bill would impair research

Boehringer Ingelheim's U.S. headquarters in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s U.S. headquarters in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

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I lead Boehringer Ingelheim’s research team in Connecticut, and every day I witness our dedicated scientists striving to discover breakthrough treatments for patients. Our mission compels me to express Boehringer Ingelheim’s opposition to Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to set government price controls on prescription drugs (contained in House Bill 6447). The governor’s proposal will not help patients but instead, will hurt the ability of companies like ours to stay focused and invest in research to advance innovative new therapies.

For more than 135 years, Boehringer Ingelheim has been a scientifically driven organization dedicated to improving people’s lives, and since 1971, our U.S. headquarters and research facilities have been situated right here in Ridgefield.

First, let’s be clear — patients are exhausted by the prescription drug pricing system in the United States. I understand — I hear the frustration directly from my family and friends. And, Boehringer Ingelheim shares this frustration because we want to ensure patients have access to the life-enhancing drugs they need.

Governor Lamont’s drug price cap proposal oversimplifies an extremely complicated health care payment model by focusing only on the costs of prescription drugs — it does not address the enormous systemic inefficiencies. Specifically, the price set by a pharmaceutical company has little to do with the amount paid by a patient at the pharmacy counter, which is typically controlled by the patient’s health insurance plan. Other stakeholders between the manufacturer and pharmacy counter, such as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), also impact costs. This is not to start blaming others in the health care ecosystem but to highlight the reality of an overly complex pricing system that cannot be fixed with a single bill from a single state.

The unintended consequences of this proposal are significant — including stifling innovation and the development of future breakthrough treatments. Boehringer Ingelheim reinvests more than 20 percent of our net sales into Research & Development and this proposal would negatively impact those investments, impeding scientific advancement. We have all seen the value of R&D, as our industry peers in drug discovery quickly ramped up efforts and introduced new COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Soon, we will be reunited with loved ones and be able to support our local communities and businesses. This is because of the tireless work and dedication of laboratory scientists at pharmaceutical companies that have invested in researching new treatments.

Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to call Connecticut home to our U.S. headquarters. I have the privilege of working with highly skilled and dedicated professionals, and we are supported by wonderful communities where we live and play. Like other pharmaceutical companies, Boehringer Ingelheim’s scientists never left the lab and worked throughout the pandemic to continue our important research for patients with very serious diseases. Again, our company and its founding family have always been steeped in R&D and our dedicated teams stand ready to be a resource to policy makers.

We welcome the opportunity to work with Governor Lamont and the legislature to identify solutions that benefit patients; however, the current proposal does not support this goal.

Paige Mahaney, Ph.D., is senior vice president and Head Research Site U.S.; Global Head of Biotherapeutics Discovery at Boehringer Ingelheim.