As large, complex and difficult to manage as our health care system has become, it reflects our national values, explains Scott Friedman, a Buffalo-based lawyer who specializes in helping businesses – many of them health-related – operate more efficiently.
“It’s a complicated system, and it’s trying to strike a balance between what’s reasonable and realistic, and who pays for expensive treatments,” said Friedman, chairman and CEO of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman.
From the firm’s offices – perched on the 16th and 17th floors of Fountain Plaza, overlooking the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – Friedman represents companies that range from startups to multibillion-dollar outfits, including a host of family-owned businesses eager to nurture and pass along their good fortunes to loved ones.
His clients include Roswell Park Cancer Institute doctors at work on a promising cancer vaccine, as well a medical device company looking to prevent blood clots.
Friedman, 58, a Williamsville native, holds law degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He was working in a large Philly firm in 1985 when his father, Dr. Irwin Friedman, learned from four of his primary care patients that their granddaughter, Lisa Pastor, also from Williamsville, was at nursing school in the City of Brotherly Love. A date was arranged. “Eight weeks later, we were engaged,” Friedman said. “We were married four months later.” He and his wife have four adult daughters, Samantha Olsen, Eliza, Julia Jensen and Madeline.
Q. Why are medical devices and pharmaceuticals so expensive?
Part of the answer is that it’s expensive to get these devices and pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA. The typical new pharmaceutical, to get cleared to go on the market, costs tens of millions of dollars. There’s millions of dollars often spent on testing a new drug in the laboratory and then maybe in animals, then doing all sorts of experiments to make sure the new pharmaceutical is working and is safe. The FDA has a staged approach to making sure that a new technology or new pharmaceutical actually works in a safe way and improves health care. It’s often the case that it has to go through three different phases. The FDA wants large patient populations. If there’s a new drug that cures cancer in one patient, that doesn’t mean in the next 99 patients it’s going to have the same result, so there’s a focus on validity and efficacy. It’s a huge investment and the companies need to pay for the investment. That’s one answer. The second answer is that the economics between third-party payers, the insurance companies, the providers, the hospital systems, the patients, the pharmaceutical companies is complicated. It’s a business, and sometimes it’s a question of negotiating leverage and competition in the marketplace. Sometimes parties try to extract the most value they can in a capitalist economy.
Q. Why do Americans pay considerably more for some medications than people in Canada and other parts of the world?
Because other parts of the world are socialistic. Some countries, like Denmark and Scandinavian countries, do provide for robust and free health care and free education but there’s a trade-off with an economy that runs like that as opposed to the United States economy, which is free market and entrepreneurial.
Q. So countries that run like ours develop most of the medical devices and new drugs, right?
Absolutely. We have a culture of innovation that is fueled by a capitalistic spirit and the free market.
Q. And what you’re saying is that people who are taking medications here are investing in the overall health of those across the globe.
Q. Any medical device or medication breakthroughs you expect to come out of Buffalo in the foreseeable future?
One of the most exciting opportunities is a new cancer vaccine that was invented by Dr. Robert Fenstermaker, the chief of neurosurgery at Roswell Park, and Dr. Mike Ciesielski. Mike and Robert patented a cancer vaccine and I helped the two of them form a company called Mimivax LLC that licensed the vaccine out of Roswell Park. Their cancer vaccine is now being used in a very deadly form of cancer, glioblastoma, a brain cancer. They had great results preclinical and in a phase one clinical trial. They have two individuals who show no evidence of cancer at this point. The company is continuing to advance and is in a phase two clinical trial that is being completed at Roswell and the Cleveland Clinic and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. It’s a vaccine that could potentially be used not just in glioblastoma but in lung cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma. The potential addressable market is $5 to $10 billion.
There’s another company on the medical device side, StimMed LLC. It turns out one of the major health issues in the world today is blood clotting. More people die of pulmonary embolisms than car crashes every year. I’ve been working with Dr. Jim Czyrny and Dr. Robert Kaplan, who patented a device called the StimSock, which is an electrical stimulator. The patent is using electrical stimulation on the bottom of the foot that with just a minimal amount of stimulation causes the toes to twist. The twitching of the toes enhances the body’s natural physiology and promotes blood flow. The FDA in April cleared the device to be sold for the purpose of enhancing blood flow in the legs of healthy patients.
We’re moving forward with commercialization of the StimSock here in Buffalo. We think it will be available in early 2017.
Next week: Scott Friedman talks about healthy workplace practices for long-term success. email: email@example.com