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Keep Virginia's Life Sciences Innovation Economy Strong

Tuesday, February 18, 2020  
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A letter from John Newby, CEO, Virginia Bio

Citizens across Virginia need health solutions and affordable health care to live full, healthy and productive lives. Lawmakers in the General Assembly are examining a broad range of policies in an attempt to relieve the burden of rising health care costs. But some of the proposals under consideration might have unintended consequences for both patients and Virginia’s innovation economy. As our elected officials consider how to address health care costs, they should ensure that any measure provides meaningful financial relief to patients and preserves the environment for medical innovation in Virginia that delivers groundbreaking treatments and creates thousands of high-paying jobs in the commonwealth.

Virginia has long been at the forefront of medical and biotechnological innovation. Our state’s world-class colleges and universities are engaged in cutting-edge research that is driving lifesaving medical treatments. The 1,800 life sciences companies across the commonwealth bring new, life-changing drugs, medical devices and diagnostics to market and are an economic engine for Virginia — with the life sciences industry employing more than 26,000 Virginians and contributing more than $8 billion to the state’s economy.

The booming innovation economy in Virginia was not created by happenstance. Lawmakers in Richmond have taken steps to ensure that our biotechnology industry flourishes and drives prosperity for thousands of Virginians. The state offers grants and incentives that support innovation and growth — and they are working. Virginia’s life sciences sector is growing faster than the national average, and is expanding in every region of the commonwealth.

Unfortunately, some health care proposals that legislators continue to explore would not only fail to address affordability challenges for patients at the pharmacy counter, but would stifle lifesaving innovation and could limit the availability of prescription options to patients. These policies would discourage private sector investment and depress the innovation ecosystem in Virginia, greatly limiting the life sciences sector’s ability to produce innovative treatments, create jobs and drive economic growth.

If the General Assembly ultimately adopts restrictive and onerous regulations, many biotechnology companies might decide that the regulatory environment in Virginia is too burdensome, and instead of continuing to grow in the commonwealth, they could relocate to states with more innovation-friendly economies. For instance, our neighbor directly to the south, North Carolina, has a similarly booming life sciences industry and could pull thousands of jobs and millions of dollars out of Virginia should our lawmakers decide to pursue policies that could jeopardize innovation.

Even worse, these proposals could force Virginians to face the uncertainty of a health care system where the government sets prices for critical medicines, like what is done in foreign countries. If ever enacted, these problematic policy proposals could limit access to lifesaving care. And if companies are pushed to no longer offer certain medicines in Virginia, patients would be forced to scramble for care and be driven to seek treatment in neighboring states. Despite our lawmakers’ best intentions to make care more affordable for Virginians, their efforts could end up having the opposite effect.

Instead of unhelpful regulations, Virginia should be focused on reforms that will help people better afford their medicines — such as limiting out-of-pocket costs and making monthly costs more predictable. And at the same time, any legislative proposal must ensure that Virginia’s innovation economy is protected so that our state’s life sciences companies can continue to discover the lifesaving treatments our patients rely on and drive economic growth in our commonwealth.

A letter from John Newby, CEO, Virginia Bio

Citizens across Virginia need health solutions and affordable health care to live full, healthy and productive lives. Lawmakers in the General Assembly are examining a broad range of policies in an attempt to relieve the burden of rising health care costs. But some of the proposals under consideration might have unintended consequences for both patients and Virginia’s innovation economy. As our elected officials consider how to address health care costs, they should ensure that any measure provides meaningful financial relief to patients and preserves the environment for medical innovation in Virginia that delivers groundbreaking treatments and creates thousands of high-paying jobs in the commonwealth.

Virginia has long been at the forefront of medical and biotechnological innovation. Our state’s world-class colleges and universities are engaged in cutting-edge research that is driving lifesaving medical treatments. The 1,800 life sciences companies across the commonwealth bring new, life-changing drugs, medical devices and diagnostics to market and are an economic engine for Virginia — with the life sciences industry employing more than 26,000 Virginians and contributing more than $8 billion to the state’s economy.

The booming innovation economy in Virginia was not created by happenstance. Lawmakers in Richmond have taken steps to ensure that our biotechnology industry flourishes and drives prosperity for thousands of Virginians. The state offers grants and incentives that support innovation and growth — and they are working. Virginia’s life sciences sector is growing faster than the national average, and is expanding in every region of the commonwealth.

Unfortunately, some health care proposals that legislators continue to explore would not only fail to address affordability challenges for patients at the pharmacy counter, but would stifle lifesaving innovation and could limit the availability of prescription options to patients. These policies would discourage private sector investment and depress the innovation ecosystem in Virginia, greatly limiting the life sciences sector’s ability to produce innovative treatments, create jobs and drive economic growth.

If the General Assembly ultimately adopts restrictive and onerous regulations, many biotechnology companies might decide that the regulatory environment in Virginia is too burdensome, and instead of continuing to grow in the commonwealth, they could relocate to states with more innovation-friendly economies. For instance, our neighbor directly to the south, North Carolina, has a similarly booming life sciences industry and could pull thousands of jobs and millions of dollars out of Virginia should our lawmakers decide to pursue policies that could jeopardize innovation.

Even worse, these proposals could force Virginians to face the uncertainty of a health care system where the government sets prices for critical medicines, like what is done in foreign countries. If ever enacted, these problematic policy proposals could limit access to lifesaving care. And if companies are pushed to no longer offer certain medicines in Virginia, patients would be forced to scramble for care and be driven to seek treatment in neighboring states. Despite our lawmakers’ best intentions to make care more affordable for Virginians, their efforts could end up having the opposite effect.

Instead of unhelpful regulations, Virginia should be focused on reforms that will help people better afford their medicines — such as limiting out-of-pocket costs and making monthly costs more predictable. And at the same time, any legislative proposal must ensure that Virginia’s innovation economy is protected so that our state’s life sciences companies can continue to discover the lifesaving treatments our patients rely on and drive economic growth in our commonwealth.


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