This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.
Good morning. My colleague Sy Mukherjee has a trifecta of stories that speak to three critical issues in the healthcare revolution: (1) that innovation is global; (2) that innovation is meaningless without access; and (3) that the world’s long-time drug innovation machine has a problem.
Regarding the first, President Trump’s executive order yesterday yanking the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is likely to have major implications for drug makers and consumers everywhere. As Sy points out in today’s edition of our Brainstorm Health Daily newsletter, and will have a more extensive piece on this afternoon for Fortune, TPP—what would have been the largest regional trade agreement ever—offered on paper some enhanced patent protections for the Pharma industry. Now, they’re back to square one. (One notable beneficiary of TPP’s demise: Those in the developing world who rely on cheap generic medicines may get a reprieve from any imminent price hikes that the pact, and its proposed IP provisions, would likely have engendered.)
Regarding the second issue, a new study published in the respected journal Cancer found that the death rate from cervical cancer was sharply higher in African-American women than even previously understood. The study, as Sy explains, raises some additional red flags as well—and further emphasizes the need for more women to get the HPV vaccine, which protects against viral strains known to be involved in the initiation of many cervical cancers. But the bigger, more glaring concern is the enormous racial disparity in outcomes. As I wrote in November (“Can Gwen Ifill’s Death Spur Cancer Innovation?”), this problem is as old as the war on cancer itself.
Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, rightly points out that when there’s equal treatment (and access to treatment), patients have equal outcomes. But by every measure, black and white patients do not, on the whole, get equal treatment and access to care—and that’s a worry that just got more urgent as Congress moves headlong to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
And finally, regarding the third issue, Sy weighs in on a new effort by the pharmaceutical industry’s trade group to win over American hearts and minds. A new multimillion-dollar PhRMA campaign called “GOBOLDLY” is supposed to convince us that all those years of price gouging and other slimy behavior were all in the name of medical progress and innovation. The campaign’s first video features a newborn infant, stirring music, and a deep-voiced guy reading a Dylan Thomas poem.
Nice to see they get it.