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Eli Lilly weighs in on the Public Plan Option

. 3 Comment(s)

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the CEO of Eli Lilly argues against the public insurance option:

On the contrary, without new, more effective medicines -- along with new devices and diagnostic tools, and better treatments and surgical techniques -- it will be impossible for larger numbers of Americans to obtain better health care at a manageable cost. So it is vital to all of us that we insist that reform proposals pass the "innovation test." Providing insurance to millions of Americans through a government-run plan would fail the test.

Does increasing access to health insurance via a public plan hamper medical innovation??

Share Your Comments


  1. richard masur


    I disagree with the CEO of Eli Lilly for two reasons: first, all the "expert" opnion that I read says that one of the CAUSES of rising health care is the cost of innovation, passed on to consumers of that innovation. Second, I would like to believe that innovation in health care improvement is PRIMARILY motivated by humanitarian incentives--not the profit motive.

  2. Selvoy M Fillerup


    Mr. Lechleiter, as CEO of Eli Lilly & Co. could hardly be expected to say anything different. He is facing challenges to his own industry and is looking for a scapegoat. What he is not saying is that his industry is already under attack from the foreign companies that make generics. These nations' pharmaceutical industries now have the talent and money to do their own research and develop their own new drugs. Mr. Lechleiter, I'd worry, too.

    The remedy is to continue to do what every successful business does; focus on core strengths. In other words, make valuable pharmaceutical contributions and you'll always have a market. People are not going to stop getting old or sick.

  3. Eric Lewis


    As a physician who works in the pharmaceutical world I would just point out that many of the major competitors of Eli Lilly are based in countries with national health insurance. Takeda, Sankyo, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, Sanofi-Aventis, Astra Zeneca are all based in such countries (England, France & Japan). The presence of a national healthcare system has not prevented the British from establishing the Sanger Institute, inventing the technology underlying CT and MRI scanners and covering its population while spending a dramatically smaller percentage of GDP on healthcare.

    Innovation is not the issue. The issue is the status quo and maintaining the profits and meeting the first rule of business: shareholder value. Given the excesses of the past 10-15 years it is very unlikely that the pharmaceutical industry will not undergo significantly more change. There will still be room for profit but it will only be given for truly innovative treatments.

    The organization, Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan lumps pharmaceutical companies and health insurers in the same boat as perpetuators of this inefficient and ineffective system. Certainly not having the government negotiate the prices for medications to supply Medicare is a point of criticism; however, unlike health insurance companies the profits of pharma companies are limited by patent life. More and more generics (atorvastatin, simvastatin, glitazones and many others) will come off patent. Very good treatments for hypertension and hyperlipidemia will be much less expensive.

    However, the costs of a colonoscopy remain many thousands of dollars for a 15-20 minute procedure. Patients are denied coverage on the most flimsy of pretexts. I think what we are seening in Mr. Lechleiter's comments is an alliance between Lilly and the health insurance industry to maintain the status quo. Mr. Lechleiter's business will change more rapidly than he can imagine regardless of support from Congress. The insurance companies are the more intransigent target. Personally, I have no objections to a national health insurance system. It would not necessarily lead to less innovation. Indeed there are many innovative healthcare companies and services in Europe and Asia that do very well.

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