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Club Level Feature Article: GlaxoSmithKline PLC

By: Deirdre Connelly, President, NA Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline is proud to be a British company with global operations and a significant presence in Philadelphia. We employee 17,000 employees in the US, and over 5,000 of those employees are in the Greater Philadelphia area. I head the US pharmaceutical business and I am happy to call Philadelphia my home.

Healthcare innovation improves people’s lives — the mother with cancer who is given more time with her children thanks to new treatments; the child who can live a normal life thanks to treatments for asthma; children who are protected by vaccines from once killer diseases; grandparents who lead healthier lives; the African child who may have protection from malaria, thanks to research on a new vaccine. Our mission at GSK is to help people do more, feel better, and live longer, and that is what motivates GSK employees to come to work every day.

Pharmaceutical innovation brings significant benefits to our society. For example: in the last 20 years, overall survivor rates for cancer in the US have increased by 25%. That means more of our friends, colleagues, and relatives are staying alive.

The value our industry provides to society comes from rewarding the long-term, costly and risky investments necessary to bring new drugs and biologics to market. It takes 10 to 15 years and $1.3 billion to bring a new drug to market. The successful drugs must cover the cost of their own investment, plus the investment costs of all the drugs that fail during the research process and don’t make it to market.  We must continue to foster an environment that provides an adequate return for these risky investments if we are to meet society’s goals for overcoming diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or cancer.

Addressing these unmet medical needs is critically important. Every day 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 and, if left unchecked, the future costs of treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s will be staggering. The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s alone add up to $148 billion for Medicare, Medicaid and private payers.

In the face of these challenges, we need to focus on the true driver of healthcare costs – chronic disease. Chronic diseases account for approximately 75% of our healthcare spending, afflict almost half of all Americans and cost our country over a trillion dollars in lost productivity every year. Fortunately, many chronic diseases that harm health and drive healthcare spending are preventable and treatable.

We support an approach to healthcare based on a “Triple Solution” of prevention, intervention and innovation to improve health and rein in costs. Looking just at prevention, if just one in ten people started a walking program, we could potentially save 5.6 billion dollars on heart disease treatments each year. In the area of intervention, if we adequately screened for diabetes and appropriately treated diabetics, we could significantly reduce the 80,000 amputations done each year due to poor treatment. And, in terms of innovation, think about what has already been accomplished in improving survival rates for cancer, in managing HIV/AIDS and in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.  We need to continue to create an environment that fosters the medical innovations that has made that progress possible.

GSK’s CEO Andrew Witty was awarded a Knighthood by the UK government for services to the economy and to the UK pharmaceutical industry in the 2012 New Year Honours List.  We are all proud of this award, which reflects the hard work done by everyone at GSK in transforming our company for the future. Andrew’s insights on innovation and the pharmaceutical industry’s contributions to society can be found in this article from Pharmaceutical Executive.

Along with Andrew and my colleagues at GSK, I look forward to continuing to help people do more, feel better, and live longer through healthcare innovation.

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