Patients tell us the most compelling stories.
Through them, we learn of personal journeys and family struggles. We meet extraordinary people working jobs, raising families and living life while fighting seemingly intractable disease. And through these patient stories, we find our inspiration to work harder and faster, bringing transformational medicines to patients as quickly as possible.
They give us our sense of urgency.
This is certainly true with respect to cancer patients and their families, whose partnership has helped to make this an exciting time in the fight against this particularly cruel disease. Unprecedented progress is being made in the field of immuno-oncology, a promising new scientific approach that unlocks the power of a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. In fact, over the past 5 years – since the introduction of YERVOY®, the first immuno-oncology medicine brought to market – there has been an all-out transformation in the way certain cancers are treated and in the way cancer patients live their lives.
And this is only the beginning.
Before 2011, chemotherapy had long been the standard of care for most cancers. While it has helped some patients, it doesn’t help enough, and it is a challenging treatment for most. Now, immuno-oncology medicines from a growing list of pharmaceutical companies are taking the lead in extending lives and in providing hope. At Bristol-Myers Squibb alone, we already have 3 such medicines approved – YERVOY®, OPDIVO® and EMPLICITI™ – and are investigating the role of over 10 potential new medicines, with as many mechanisms of action, to eventually be used in combination.
Without question, this is cause for optimism.
But as patients’ stories make clear, our work is far from done. Too many patients are still losing their battle with cancer. Specifically, we need to keep advancing the science, building on recent successes and making progress toward our ultimate goal: to turn cancer into a chronic disease.
Indeed, major advances in cancer treatment require significant investments of resources – time, people and money. There is no getting around it. But it is equally clear that they are investments that often save lives and that we have a responsibility to make sure that all patients have access to the latest and greatest immuno-oncology treatments.
Many of us in the life sciences industries take this charge seriously. Very seriously. We understand the burden faced by patients – medical as well as financial – and we understand the important role we must play in alleviating both.
To that end, there are few things we should focus on for our health care system to improve care for cancer patients as well as those fighting other serious diseases:
- We need to focus on medicines that deliver real value. Here, the goal must be dramatically improving on the standard of care for the most devastating diseases. That means more focus on transformational medicines. That means more investments in therapeutic treatments that can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our patients.
- We need to work together. Industry and academia need to progress science faster and more effectively, and all of us – including payers and providers – need to affect the price of medicines and the ability of patients to access them. It is absolutely vital that we work together with a shared purpose and greater transparency.
- We need to explore new pricing models. Pharmaceutical companies. Government agencies. The insurance industry as well as providers. Everyone must come to the table, recognizing that although our market-based system is good, it is by no means flawless, and we need to strike the right balance between value and access. We need to pursue innovative solutions – not just in our discovery of new medicines, but also in our delivery to patients.
At Bristol-Myers Squibb, our passion for immuno-oncology has motivated us to partner with the rest of the scientific community like never before – to find better ways to translate science into medicines faster – and to work with payers around the world to ensure patients have access to these medicines.
But we know that the way forward requires even more collaboration, even more innovation and an even greater sense of urgency.
After all, this is what patients tell us. This is what patients deserve.
Previously published on Forbes.com