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Vice President Joe Biden Talks Up Collaboration with the New ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I was flipping through Internet news when I landed on a fascinating Today Show interview by NBC News Reporter Tom Brokaw with outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who were discussing their support for the new $1 billion cancer “moonshot” initiative. Fascinating, because it telescoped a radical change from the not-so-distant “war on cancer” to an evolving collaborative approach.

 The interview was additionally interesting because of the impact cancer has had on the lives of Brokow, who is fighting his own battle, and the Bidens, who lost their son to brain cancer. Joe Biden has “an added degree of passion because of what happened to Beau,” Brokaw told NBC News Reporter Lester Holt in a preview. “He’s turned his grief into energy,” and what’s different about this cancer-fighting project is that we now have more information from the human genome project, Brokaw explained.

What Biden is trying to do is “not tip over the tables, … but to get everybody at the table.” It’s not about the destination, Brokaw said, but “all the people that you bring into the process. [Biden] used John F. Kennedy as an example: We’re going to go to the moon, but to get there they needed to get the best engineers, the best scientists, and the best builders—at the same table the oncologists, the researchers, the big pharma people to turn out the drugs, so there is a common core so everybody is operating off the same page.”

In a separate interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, Brokaw clarified the difference between the “war on cancer” and the emerging collaborative moonshot approach: “The war on cancer was against cancer in a kind of generic way. This moonshot is about the many parts of cancer and the research that is going on in many parts. And the big, big challenge is to drop the silos so that everybody is working toward one goal."

Sound familiar? Now let’s cut to the actual interview, which clarified the problem and highlighted the emerging solution: “The immunotherapists did not work with the geneticists. The geneticists were not working with the oncologists,” explained Biden. “Unlike any other time in the treatment of cancer, all these various disciplines are [now] working together. Now we can do a thousand-billion calculations per second.”

Biden lamented the high price of drugs, much as ASAP 2016 BioPharma Conference Keynote Speaker Dr. Sam Nussbaum said, as covered in this blog post:

‘Dr. Sam’ Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time

“There’s one particular drug that works very well that came out in 2002. It cost something like $27 [or} $28,000 a year. It’s now $130,000 a year,” Biden pointed out. “Flat screen TV’s started off at $2,000 a screen; now you can buy the same thing for $300. The more people use it, the more the price goes down. Ironically, the more people have used this particular drug, the price has gone up.”

To watch the Brokaw interviews and see how cancer research is evolving to a more collaborative approach, click here.

More Brokaw Interviews

**Image credit Today Show.

Tags:  2016 BioPharma Conference  alliance management  Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative  Collaborative  Dr. Sam Nussbaum  human genome project  Joe Biden  Tom Brokaw  US Healthcare System 

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‘Dr. Sam’ Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 8, 2016

As chair of an action network progress tracking group, Dr. Samuel Nussbaum has been busy tracking the progress of alternative payment models for health care payments.  Dr. Sam, as he is known informally, claims we are in the best of times and worst of times, citing unprecedented advantages such as mapping the human genome.  But despite one of the greatest achievements in the history of human exploration and extraordinary medical breakthroughs, despite the thousands and thousands of drugs under development which are the fruits of basic research, many of which were government funded, we have created a healthcare system that scientifically, in terms of delivery and accessibility, has been less than socially responsible.

“People can’t afford the cost of drugs. Over the past decade the average wage has not changed, but look at the cost of healthcare!”

Dr. Sam points to the populist enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. During their primary campaigns, both capitalized on the type of anger that is the natural outgrowth of this dilemma, he said.

Sharing insights gained from 15 years as executive vice president and chief medical officer of Anthem, Dr. Sam ticked off the issues. We’re spending more, and through the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, there’s better access. But spending on other services that also play a vital role in health and wellbeing is down—public health, mental health, dental care, education, housing, and the list goes on.

“We stole from other investments to increase access. We are not using our trillions wisely,” he claims.  “Thirty to 40 percent is wasted on poor services, admin costs, fraud, etc. Obama tried to introduce reforms, to deliver care differently and provide more integration and coordination of care. But pharmaceuticals remain front and center. Chronic illness treatment is all about drugs. Granted, there have been extraordinary strides made toward cures and better management of chronic illnesses, but this comes at a cost. In 2015, health care spending topped $3 trillion.  Twenty-five percent was spent on drugs, particularly specialty drugs,” he said, emphasizing how much more of the healthcare pie is being taken by pharmaceuticals than in the past.

People want price controls, Dr. Sam reminded the audience. Seventy-five percent of the American public believes the drug companies are taking advantage. The USA pays the highest prices for drugs. The pressure is building, and it’s playing out in the 2016 campaign.

Donald Trump claims the drug companies are lobbying the politicians and that’s why costs are exorbitant. Clinton is adjusting her opinion, borrowing from what worked for Sanders during his campaign. With the pressure on and the public outcry growing louder, Nussbaum said Congress can be expected to act, regardless of who wins the presidency. 

Will the ongoing reform of US healthcare now start borrowing from the single payer model? According to Dr. Sam, “Unless we find a way to solve this ourselves, there will be increased regulation. We need to figure out these new models of value. Few want price controls because it hampers innovation. We need financial incentives that provide an engine for innovation. But egregious price increases are driving political blowback.”

Concerning the election, with Clinton, Nussbaum expects there will be a continuation of alternative payment models and cost controls, including less than full access to all drugs. As for Trump, he is quick to condemn Obamacare and threatens to repeal it. But Nussbaum also reminded the audience of Trump’s son-in-law, real estate entrepreneur Jared Kushner, whose brother Josh is co-founder of Oscar Health, a health insurance company that, as a licensed health care provider, sells to individuals and families in the marketplaces created by Obamacare. Perhaps, he suggested, the real differences in healthcare policy between Clinton and Trump might not be so great post-election.

Nussbaum currently serves as a strategic consultant to EGB Advisors, Inc., consulting arm for Epstein, Becker & Green, where he advises life science companies, hospitals and health care systems, and physician and provider organizations. 

**Footnote: Dr. Samuel Nussbaum was the Conference Keynote at the 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference.

Tags:  Affordable Care Act  Anthem  Clinton  congress  Donald Trump  Dr. Samuel Nussbaum  pharmaceuticals  US Healthcare System 

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