New HINJ CEO Buteas eager for honest discussion on costs of drug development, prescription prices

Veteran lobbyist says less than 10% of health care dollar is spent on prescription drugs — percentage that has not changed since 1960s

Chrissy Buteas quickly and succinctly rattled off why she is excited to be the new CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey.

“Iconic industry that saves lives,” she said.

Those five words mean a lot. But, if you’re looking for more — she’s got them.

“Our residents are benefiting from the life-saving treatments our companies have been providing for more than 100 years,” she said. “Our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our grandparents — it’s hard-pressed to find somebody who is not receiving the benefit from a New Jersey-based company right now.

“So, it’s really important that we recognize their contributions and have an honest conversation about the industry.”

The honest conversation, Buteas said, starts with the cost of prescription drugs. She rattles off a list of statistics that may surprise some.

Buteas said less than 10% of the health care dollar is actually spent on prescription drugs — and that the percentage has not changed since the 1960s.

“I don’t think most folks know that,” she said.

Or that 90% of all prescriptions are for generics, not brand name.

And, most of all, that the drug companies do not dictate the final price in the way so many think they do.

“It’s important to note that we can save on drug costs today if the insurance companies and the (pharmacy benefit managers) simply pass along the rebates that the pharmaceutical companies provide to them to the patient,” she said. “It can be done today.”

What can’t be done in a day is the creation of more pharmaceuticals.

The process takes years — and is fraught with failure, Buteas said.

“Drug developmental is a high-risk endeavor,” she said. “I think it’s important for the audience to know that, for every 5,000 new compounds, only five of them make it to clinical trial. And of those five, only 12% of them in trial will actually make it to market.”

Buteas feels getting the word out is part of her role at HINJ, which she started in April.

“I’m going to be going around and telling the fabulous story about all the investment that our pharmaceutical and medtech companies have done — about all the different life-saving treatments that they’ve developed over 100-plus years, about how life expectancy has increased because of those life-saving treatments,” she said.

“There’s a significant investment that they’ve put in to bring these cures to life. It costs billions of dollars to create these drugs. And there’s a lot of failure that takes place first. But they have been able to do so in New Jersey, and we want to continue having them invest here in the state.”