Valuing Innovation in the Current and Post-Pandemic World

 eyeforpharma Virtual Conference 2020 panel discussion

National Pharmaceutical Council Chief Science Officer Robert Dubois, MD, PhD, discusses the value of medicines and treatment innovation, preparedness and workforce productivity during a national health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Biopharmaceutical industry experts gathered for a panel discussion at the eyeforpharma Virtual Conference on April 16 to explore how the value of innovation, productivity and preparedness might change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also looked at how the incentive to innovate changes during a pandemic.

The panel, moderated by National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) Chief Science Officer Robert Dubois, featured Chris Leibman, Senior Vice President of Value and Access at Biogen, and Sarah Emond, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). Leibman also serves on NPC’s Board of Directors.

“Are Americans going to remember when this is over how important innovation is?” said Leibman. “Will we remember that you can’t just have thousands of people working on vaccines if there wasn’t already a paid-for infrastructure to do it?” 

Emond pointed out that it’s not only the value of innovation that’s in play, but also the incentive for innovation. She said manufacturers don’t really need an incentive to develop a treatment in a pandemic. “The pharmaceutical scientists are of course working on this because there’s a social good at stake to reopen the economy, to save lives, to get us back to normal,” said Emond. “So in that regard, do we really need a value assessment framework to tell us what a fair price might be if we don’t need to incentivize the development of a vaccine?”

There are differences in how we incentivize innovation based on the problem we’re trying to solve. But how do we create a world in which there are incentives to prepare during the period when no one is thinking about a pandemic? “To me, evolving to how we think about rewarding innovation is absolutely essential,” said Leibman.

The panel also asked if workforce productivity will carry more weight in value assessment frameworks now that we’ve seen how social distancing and working from home affect productivity in ways that we’ve never understood before. “Productivity has always been important, but now with COVID-19, we are going to deeply appreciate that,” said Dubois. “And moving forward, I hope that it is a part of the equation in ways perhaps it hasn’t been as much as before.” 

Leibman agreed that at-home productivity of parents and at-home productivity of different workers is something that has always been neglected in value assessments. Beyond productivity issues, will the pandemic change ICER’s approach to how it assesses value? “I think there’s a strong likelihood,” said Emond. “What’s interesting is I don’t know what that is yet.” She also said it will be interesting to see how the pricing and development of potential vaccines play out over the next couple of months. 

Leibman, who was one of the first five people in the state of Massachusetts to be diagnosed with COVID-19, hopes that his participation on this panel “gives us confidence that there’s going to be a future and we’re going to get through this.”

“When you look at what we’ve seen happen over the last six weeks, the collaborations, the partnerships, the investments, the movement, it’s absolutely inspiring to watch and be a part of,” Leibman said.

The panel discussion can be viewed on eyeforpharma’s website through May 15.