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Inside the patient-centricity bubble

Patient centricity

Patient-centricity has become somewhat of a fixed mantra lately and pharma seems more than happy to join in with the chant. But despite the danger of becoming a cliché, if one thing was made clear at this year’s eyeforpharma conference held in the Spanish city of Barcelona, it’s that this particular buzzword is one that the industry isn’t relinquishing any time soon.

Speaking at the conference, Bayer’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer Sebastian Guth upholds this view.

“We already have a number of patients who are managing their own health, but interestingly most patients lack true health literacy and control over their own health,” said Sebastian, explaining that despite the explosive burst of digital solutions, patient-centricity should start with the basics. And that includes editing disease-related literature and using terms that are deemed patient-friendly.

“What we can do is ensure that the information available to patients is clear, reliable and provided at a time that allows the individual to make an informed decision, because patients are not waiting. Patients are pushing us harder, demanding a new relationship, not only physicians but with the industry too.”

Results from the Aurora Project also reflected the mounting relevancy of patient-centricity, with very little chance of this easing up. According to the global benchmarking survey, 91% of respondents said patient-centricity is important, a number that grew by 6% from 2016. However, pharma’s own self-reflection versus the general patient perception of the industry is remarkably different. Only 36% of respondents said that they have quite a lot of trust in pharma, and of that number, only 4% said they had a lot of trust in the industry. These statistics aren’t surprising, however, and mass distrust in big pharma is nothing new. However, 67% of pharma said that patients’ trust would be positively affected if they could observe a day in the life of pharma.

Upon hearing these results, Lode Dewulf, chief patient officer for Servier Group, said: “This is a very important insight because we started this whole patient-centricity movement by realising that physicians like me don’t really know the patients as well as we once thought. We have been trained to think we know them but we now know that this image is wrong and incomplete, so we go to the patients now to listen.”

However, while it seems that patient-centricity should be about the sector simply lending an ear to patients, Eli Lilly’s senior vice president and president Christie Shaw also voiced the importance
of digitally equipping patients to help them navigate healthcare’s altering landscape.

“It’s up to us to empower patients and give them the digital tools they may need to make sure they can make their own healthcare decisions,” Christie said.

The new era of digiceuticals

Digital therapeutics, or as it’s more commonly known, ‘digiceuticals’, is the therapeutic advancement of technology, and in some ways, this development has and will replace medications.

Last year, non-profit Virtua Health was launched, following a successful peer review study, which demonstrated that the group was able to reverse type 2 diabetes in half of its clinical trial participants, eliminating or reducing insulin in 87% of patients in just 10 weeks.

Subsequently, the online medical clinic opened its virtual doors and began treating patients with the condition, shifting the focus from diabetes management to disease reversal. Thanks to this service, patients can contact a dedicated physician or health coach who encourages individuals to follow a diet consisting of a high fat and low carbohydrate intake.

“Who would have thought digital would replace medicines? We need to do more than just deliver new therapies and medicines, we need a new paradigm,” Christie says, explaining that this new paradigm isn’t one that’s necessarily wholly tech-heavy, but one that considers the holistic patient journey, relieving any patient burden that often acts as an unnecessary side effect of medications.

“Take diabetes, for example. It’s very hard to continuously measure blood glucose by pricking your finger. Apple has recently said they can see future technology that will measure blood glucose levels with sensors on a wearable. It maybe years away, but solutions like these will minimise patient burden.”

Invading healthcare

Apple isn’t the only corporate giant making waves in the healthcare space. This year alone, Amazon has made its long-anticipated move into health, joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase. The trio’s initial offering, which focuses on technology to provide its employees with “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare” at a reasonable cost, has no doubt shaken-up the industry. Christie believes this move is for the better. “I was excited to hear about some of these collaborations because we need to advance. Why is it that the medical industry is the last frontier to be disrupted by technology? We can get EKGs through a smartphone yet we’re still sending patients to the big machines. Despite this, I am confident that pharma will demonstrate positive outcomes  but we need to collaborate in order to do that. No one key stakeholder or one industry will be able to do  it alone and if we put patients at  the centre of everything we do,  we can better collaborate on innovative projects.”

The cost of innovation

But these innovative projects aren’t the industry’s leading challenge. “Innovation is in pharma’s heritage,” Christie explained, stressing that pharma’s arch enemy is not one that concerns innovation, but one surrounding the qualms of  drug pricing.

“Let’s stop fighting about drug pricing and let’s come together  with payers, the government and  the policymakers and do  something to show what the value  is. We need to get serious about  this and acknowledge the fight  about drug pricing.”

However, according to Andrew Baum, global head of healthcare research for CiTi, the solution isn’t as straightforward. “There has been some egregious behaviour in the industry in terms of drug pricing,” he said referring to the net price of CML drugs, which have tripled over the course of the last ten years and similarly, AbbVie’s Humira that collected 50% of its revenue growth based on price increases alone. Andrew then went on to say: “Why does the industry pursue this tack? Simply because the pipeline did not deliver what was hoped and if you can’t market drugs off-label because you end up with the corporate integrity agreement and large fines then the alternative is to jet (ramp up) pricing, but that also has long-term consequences.” Moreover, this is partly pharma’s own fault, Andrew explained, but much like his contemporaries, he also believes the only way out of this problem is innovation.

The hybrid model

However, ringing true to pharma, innovation comes at a price. Lode acknowledged this and said: “Pharma is stable and scalable and there’s nothing wrong with commercial profits because they allow sustainability. Patients do  not want pharma not to make a profit, because they know the drug that can help them in the future  can only be made if there’s a profit.” Making an innate plea to pharma, he urged the industry to “stop thinking binary”.

“The answer to our problems  isn’t patients or profit, long-term  or short-term. The hybrid model is one where you stop picking and choosing and focus on behavioural change,” Lode adds.

“If you want to change your business model then it’s time to  focus on the people. Don’t sacrifice long-term for short-term, look  at both.”

Whether pharma can adapt to  this new hybrid model, however, remains to be seen.

Article by
Gemma Jones

is PME's reporter

26th July 2018

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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