Mid-Year Health News Roundup

We’re almost halfway through the year, so we thought now would be a good time to review some of the biggest health news so far in 2021! Read on to see what has been going on in the world of health and medicine so far this year.  

Vaccines help provide a COVID-19 turnaround 

On January 8, 2021 the United States saw roughly 300,000 new COVID-19 cases. On May 25, 2021 we had around 23,500. There is no doubt that this massive drop in daily cases has been the health story of the year so far, and one significant contributing factor has been the ramping up of vaccination efforts. On May 25, the Biden Administration announced that 50% of US adults have reached full vaccination. New York State has an even higher vaccination percentage, with over 55% of the adult population fully vaccinated.  

Paper finds gaps in health data are a barrier to health equity 

COVID-19 laid bare racial disparities in the United States health system. For example, COVID-19 cases among Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders are up to 2.5 times higher as compared to whites. Similarly, the rate of COVID-19 related deaths among Black Americans and American Indian/Alaskan Natives are twice as high as whites. A recent PhRMA paper finds that gaps in information on race, ethnicity and health are barriers to achieving health equity for many groups. 

The challenges might seem insurmountable for one organization to take on, but PhRMA is committed to being a catalyst for change and improvement. They know that to begin overcoming health disparities, researchers, policymakers and providers need actionable data that demonstrate how and why people of color experience worse health outcomes than their white counterparts.

New data show retail medicine prices fell in 2019 

Newly released 2019 data shows retail prescription medicine prices declined by 0.4%, on average, according to National Health Expenditures (NHE) data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published recently in Health Affairs. While retail prescription medicine spending grew 5.7% that same year, this increase was due to more patients getting the medicines they need, not higher prices. 

Other key findings include: 

  • In 7 of the last 10 years, retail medicine spending grew more slowly than total health care spending and spending on retail medicines accounted for less than 10% of total health care spending growth over the past decade. 
  • Since 2000, retail medicine spending has grown, on average, 3.9% per year, below the average annual growth rate of spending on hospital care (4.5%) and total health care spending (4.3%). 
  • Hospital spending increased 6.2% in 2019 reaching $1.2 trillion and continuing to account for nearly one third of total health care spending. 

Preserving U.S. innovation worldwide is more important than ever 

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred unprecedented levels of innovation within the biopharmaceutical industry to combat this urgent global health crisis. PhRMA member companies are collaborating with governments, academia, NGOs, and one another and are working around the clock to research, develop and deliver COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. This swift action and collaboration is made possible because the United States protects and values innovation – which helped enable our industry to translate research into safe and effective products in less than a year that can end the pandemic. 

Reliable intellectual property (IP) protections and enforcement, when coupled with market access and trade policies that promote innovation, are necessary for the research, development and manufacture of innovative medicines. Here’s why. 

New report demonstrates the growing importance of partnerships in advancing biomedical innovation 

As we mark a full year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, it’s impossible to overstate the significance of collaborations. The unprecedented level of strategic collaborative efforts that have taken place across the biopharmaceutical ecosystem have been central to efforts to ensure efficient development, manufacture and distribution of critical COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The coronavirus outbreak has brought new attention to the importance of these innovative cross-stakeholder partnerships. A new report from PhRMA looks broadly at the collaborative ecosystem and illustrates biopharmaceutical industry’s long history and vast experience with a diverse breadth of collaborative efforts.   

The report Power and Promise of a Collaborative Biopharmaceutical Ecosystem provides a look at the various collaborative partnerships currently taking place across the research ecosystem and healthcare system, playing a crucial role in: 

  • Catalyzing research and development (R&D) and innovation, 
  • Supporting public health and improving patient outcomes, 
  • Enabling manufacturing scalability and supporting distribution and 
  • Improving access to cutting-edge innovation and cures. 

Our three-part approach to build a better healthcare system 

On April 3, more than four million Americans received a COVID-19 vaccine — the largest single-day vaccination event in human history. For innovators across the pharmaceutical industry, these moments make the years — sometimes decades — of painstaking trial and error worth it. 

The biopharmaceutical industry has played an essential role in combating this pandemic. At the same time, the battle against COVID-19 has driven home an important reality: We need to build a better health care system that ensures scientific advances are accessible and affordable to everyone who needs them. 

To that end, PhRMA released a series of policies we believe will help our country reach that goal. This plan is based on three key pillars: ending the pandemic and building a more resilient system, making medicines more affordable and building a more just, equitable health care system. Read more about it here.