DALLAS, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- In a speech to the Dallas Friday Group today, John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY ), said that the value of medical innovation – particularly innovative medicines – far outstrips its cost. Lechleiter marshaled data showing that medical innovation over the past century dramatically extended life spans, improved quality of life, and boosted productivity.
So far, the health care debate has revolved around access, quality, and cost—all of which need to be addressed, according to Lechleiter. "But, we'll never improve in any of these areas – in fact, we risk going backwards – without taking into account two fundamental game-changers: innovation and value."
By tackling diseases that had been impervious to medicine throughout human history, for example, medical innovation helped life expectancy rise by more than 30 years in the 20th century – an unprecedented 66 percent increase in life. Thanks to medical technology – including innovative medicines, since 1975, Americans' death from heart disease has declined by nearly 60 percent, and five-year survival rates for cancer have expanded from 50 percent to nearly 70 percent.
"More than one million additional Americans would die of heart disease or stroke each year if the death rates were what they were 30 years ago," Lechleiter said, "and over 100,000 more people would be dying from cancer every year."
Lechleiter cited two economists who calculated that increasing life spans alone was worth as much as half the national GDP between 1970 and 1998. Furthermore, medical innovation has also helped drive down the rates of functional disability, meaning people were living not just longer, but also better.
Lechleiter singled out innovative medicines as providing