Price Controls Deter Biotech Investors

In the front-page article ``Drugmakers' Plea: No Price Controls,'' March 21, Sen. David Pryor (D) of Arkansas argues the need for price controls on the pharmaceutical industry to control health-care costs. What the article does not address is how price controls will affect the promising but vulnerable biotechnology industry.

Controlling health costs is important. But encouraging medical research and innovation that actually saves lives and medical costs in the long run is more important. The proposals both by President Clinton and Rep. Pete Stark (D) of California put price controls on breakthrough drugs that are researched and developed by biotechnology. Biotech drugs can take a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. With few products on the market, the industry depends totally on private-sector investment.

Investors have fled the biotech markets with just the talk of price controls. Industry surveys already show a decline in biotech research into many diseases. It would be ironic for Congress to establish a health-care system with price controls which discourage research, produce less ``health,'' and save less money in the long run. Carl B. Feldbaum, Washington President, Biotechnology Industry Organization

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