Taking medical innovation to the next level

Greg Kueterman

Eli Lilly and Company

As our R&amp,D innovation month continues, Greg Kueterman from Eli Lilly and Company shares his thoughts on the importance of advancements within medical innovation.

Advancing medical innovation has never been more important than it is today. The number of people globally with diabetes continues to reach unprecedented levels. The personal and economic projections for Alzheimer’s disease are daunting – much like the HIV / AIDS projections in the early 1980s. And while we’ve seen remarkable progress in areas such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, too many lives are being lost – and too many families are being impacted.

As a global community, we need to have a serious discussion about taking medical innovation to the next level.

pharmaphorum has asked Eli Lilly and Company to post a regular blog about issues that most acutely affect medical innovation – and we’re grateful for the opportunity. We have a lot of passion in this space. And, naturally, medical innovation has many tentacles: the work of scientists in their laboratories comes to mind, but issues such as intellectual property, foreign trade, anti-counterfeiting, and patient access – among others – all have a natural place in what we call the “innovation ecosystem”. Each will be discussion points over the coming months.


“…more than 5,000 new medicines are in the industry’s global pipeline. That’s an all-time record.”


For now, let’s focus on some recent good news that underscores why a global ecosystem is so important. Earlier this year, a new report by the US trade group, PhRMA, stated that more than 5,000 new medicines are in the industry’s global pipeline. That’s an all-time record. More than 800 are in the final phase of testing, and roughly 70 percent are potential “first-in-class” medicines.1

Many of these compounds, of course, won’t be approved for treatment. Medical innovation is both exciting and frustrating in that way, true breakthroughs are typically surrounded by many “near misses”. That said, the seismic growth in the industry’s pipeline is encouraging to anyone who spends their days seeking out solutions for patients. More compounds in the pipeline means more chances that real breakthroughs will reach patients.

The need for new and better treatments has become increasingly apparent. An estimated 4 million people in Western Europe have Alzheimer’s disease, and the International Diabetes Federation says more than 66 million Europeans will have diabetes by 2030. Lilly’s CEO, John Lechleiter, wrote about such trends in a recent edition of Forbes2. In particular, he addressed the important need of allowing research to continue by building upon a nurturing environment:

“These fundamentals are as important as ever, because, for all our progress, there’s a crying need for new medicines. The number of Americans with diabetes continues to skyrocket. Over a lifetime, men have a one-in-two risk of developing cancer, women, one in three. And the direct costs for caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is forecast to multiply five-fold by 2050 and surpass $1 trillion unless new treatments are found that delay its onset or slow its progression … the last thing we want to do – or can afford to do – is stop (medical innovation) cold.”

In many countries, the dreaded HIV / AIDS projections didn’t materialize because medical innovation and education sharply cut death rates. But our industry is staring many more difficult diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, right in the eye. When it comes to medical innovation, we need to hit the accelerator – not the break.


“… strong intellectual property protection – in Europe, Asia, and across the globe – is the heartbeat of our business.”


The responsibility of medical innovation rests with pharma companies, but we need an ecosystem that allows our work to thrive. For starters, strong intellectual property protection – in Europe, Asia, and across the globe – is the heartbeat of our business. Without laws that protect new medicines, the very steep investments that are sunk into research and development will be labeled as increasingly risky. Our industry is engaged in trade talks, such as TPP and the recently proposed European-US trade agreement – both of which can lead to meaningful market protection before generic competition enters the market. Efforts to thwart counterfeit medicines (everything from addressing importation laws to uncovering unsavory attempts to create fake medicines) play into our work. Most importantly, access for patients is paramount: without access, our innovation goals become far less meaningful.

Starting next month, you’ll hear from Lilly experts on a variety of topics that are closely tied to the important goal of finding solutions to some of our greatest medical needs – including a deeper dive into the topics outlined above. Your feedback and thoughts are important to us, and we look forward to hearing from you.


1. PhRMA report: http://www.phrma.org/pipeline

2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnlechleiter/2013/01/28/a-coming-renaissance-in-pharmaceutical-research-development/

The next Eli Lilly &amp, Co article will go live in April.


About the author:

Greg Kueterman has worked in the business of health care communications since 1996, including 14 years at Eli Lilly and Company. Greg currently works in corporate media relations at Lilly, where he manages media outreach for the company’s government affairs, public policy, and access organizations. He also provides strategic support for European Operations. Greg has been involved in the company’s premier social media platform, LillyPad, since its inception in 2010. Greg is one of three regular bloggers on LillyPad – where he focuses specifically on “Life at Lilly” issues. Before joining Lilly’s media relations team, Greg worked in marketing communications and employee communications at Lilly, and he also spent three years at WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the US. Greg is a 1987 graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism. He spent nine years in the newspaper business before taking on communications roles in the corporate world.

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