Feb10

Don’t Worry, Be Monkey

Three years ago, while living in Shanghai, I wrote about how the world would be witnessing two ancient, amazing theatres of faith and perseverance that test the extent of human endurance and also showcase how transmittable diseases can spread much faster in a small space of time, across huge geographies.

MonkeyThe first is the celebration of Chinese New Year, which is celebrated across China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore as national holidays, but nowhere more so than in Mainland China. The mass exodus from cities to villages to celebrate the new lunar year involves nearly 600 million Chinese covering over 3.6 billion journeys in under 2 weeks in a grueling journey back to their hometowns, and back again. Compare this with just about 100 million Americans travelling domestically over the peak holiday season. 1

The second is India’s Kumbh Mela, an ancient pilgrimage held every 12 years in India, where the equivalent of the entire population of New York congregates daily to bathe in the sacred rivers to attain spirituality. The Mela itself is a huge planning exercise for various NGOs and health bodies who need to ensure that millions of people stay free from diseases and health risks. 2

Nearly 3 years on since my last write-up, as one gets ready for the whimsical yet wise Year of the Monkey that starts on February 8th and the Kumbh Mela reaches its auspicious 12-year cycle, it’s an opportune moment to think about how these two acts of faith invariably must have a health impact that affects hundreds of millions in just a matter of weeks.

In China, getting from one part of the country to another is an ordeal at this time. Stakes are highest on long-haul routes, and the train route from Beijing to Urumqi is about as long as they come. The trip will take over 40 hours and covers 1,998 miles to finally reach the northwest Xinjiang Province.

Passengers crammed in seats share their floor, bathroom and luggage space with the standing passengers. For the next 2 days, migrant workers rub shoulders with bubbly university students. Policemen, cooks and white collar workers face each other across cramped booths, and the combination of card games, grain alcohol, cigarettes and forced cohabitation offers an alarming chance of communicable diseases—especially when faced with travellers moving from one side of the country to the other, from all walks of life and backgrounds, alongside a lack of comprehensive vaccination posing some alarming questions. While there are no available facts on this, it is something to think about, especially if it’s giving a virus the chance to be carried from one end of China to the other in the approximately 3 billion+ journeys that are already taking place.

If one interprets the Monkey’s characteristics as an outlook for 2016, it would probably tell us to stop all this unnecessary banter about health and simply ‘Don’t Worry. Be Monkey.’ One can’t argue with thousands of years of celestial knowledge as simple as that.

Moving from humanity’s largest migration to a side of Asia that reinforces the role of nature in Asian values, the ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’ is set to take place by the banks of all the four rivers considered sacred by Hindus in India—Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati and Godawari. Rivers have always held a special place in Hindu mythology, as these are considered to be the carriers of life and fertility. This fair is perhaps the largest and peaceful gathering in any religion around the world. It never ceases to amaze anyone who has visited during this time.

Mark Twain, the intrepid traveller that he was, visited the Mela in 1895 and best summarized it by saying, “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining”.

You can’t mention the Mela without hearing a comparison with the Burning Man, the offbeat American gathering that takes place in the Nevada desert. While they are vastly different in size, they do share the sameness that one would experience in temporary ”pop-up” cities that appear and disappear over a matter of weeks. In terms of healthcare data, medical tents that offer emergency services see about 5,000 patients across 10 medical tents a day. In all of this, though, at the Kumbh Mela, which can swell to 60 times the attendance of the Burning Man, health clinics are likely to utilize emergency medical services only once a day. That’s a remarkable display of how massive crowds can manage themselves relatively safely and get home in one piece. This however is only one part of it. The less spiritual fact is that rivers like the Ganges (considered extremely holy) are unfortunately filled with chemical wastes, sewage and even human and animal remains which carry major health risks by either direct bathing in the dirty water (e.g.: Bilharziasis infection) or by drinking (the fecal-oral route).

I refer to these two large-scale Asian events – the advent of the new lunar year and the Mela – because they act as a perfect mirror to what drives this wide populace in its multitudes of pilgrimages and celebrations. A perfect diaspora of what represents humanity in all its colours, shapes and forms. It is at once tangible in its tribulation and intangible in providing confidence and enlightenment. The health risks are real, but not enough to keep hundreds of millions of Chinese from seeing their loved ones again, or for tens of millions of Indians to reconnect with their inner spiritual self. A ritual that has gone on for millenia.

When we interpret the world around us knowing such a mass of humanity is going to such levels of endurance, I believe it offers us a chance to understand what drives us against such odds and risks. Maybe it’s within these individuals, each striving to get home or to a new spiritual plane, that the bigger picture can be seen. Health is rational, emotions are not.

So in this age of Aquarius, while millions strip off their clothes to soak in sacred muddy rivers halfway across the world, and an entire population crams into trains, buses and any available transport to get home to see loved oneslet’s pause and say, ”What’s to worry? It’s all Monkey.”

“Gong Xi Fa Cai” – Happy New Lunar Year of the Monkey.

 

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Resources:

  1. http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/
  2. https://sacredsites.com/asia/india/kumbha_mela.html
Also posted in Access, behavior change, Culture, Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications | Tagged | Comments closed
Dec8

Biosimilars: You Won’t Feel a Thing (For Now, Anyway)

With the recent launch of Zarxio™, the pharmaceutical industry has been buzzing about the impact of biosimilar products. But how quickly will biosimilars enter the US market, and will their impact be as strong as some forecasts predict?

Biosimilars are made through a more complex process involving living cells as compared to generic versions of small molecular products, which use an exact copy of the chemical makeup of the original. Because manufacturing techniques are considered proprietary, there are slight differences between reference products (the original, branded product) and the biosimilar, thus the first set of hurdles to rapid uptake.

FDA guidance has defined requirements for a product to demonstrate biosimilarity to a reference product; however, final guidance around interchangeability and labeling of biosimilars remains open. The gap in defining interchangeability opens a host of clinical hurdles that biosimilars will face in patient and physician adoption, adding layers of complexity to diseases and treatments that already require heavy time investments around treatment decisions. Indications for biosimilar products may be different from the reference product; multiple biosimilars may be considered equivalent to the reference product, but not to each other; sub-populations, including treatment-naive or -experienced patients, may have different responses to reference vs biosimilar products.

Beyond clinical hurdles, regulatory and payment hurdles are additional speed bumps that biosimilar products will need to pass. Unlike the European Union, where biosimilars have been available for years and there are centralized price and access controls, the US market is more fragmented and local pricing and reimbursement will impact prescribing. The recent consolidation of large payer organizations nods to stronger bargaining power for drug pricing, but discounts for biosimilar products are not expected to be as steep as price differences for traditional small molecule products. Novartis has said they will sell Zarxio™ at a 15% discount compared with Amgen’s Neupogen® making it a lower-cost alternative, but requiring large volume shifts before significant savings will be realized. Even in the European Union, biosimilar pricing has been modestly lower than reference products, price erosion has been gradual, and the shift of market share to biosimilar products has varied widely across therapeutic categories.

Additional legal challenges will likely also slow momentum of biosimilar products. Although patent infringement rulings were in favor of Novartis, nuances in the manufacturing of biologics will continue to introduce new hurdles for biosimilars –disclosure on proprietary manufacturing processes that impact the efficacy of biologic products will continue to provoke relations between pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of biosimilar products. Beyond the legal risk required, the high cost of manufacturing biosimilars will create additional barriers to entry.

In favor of biosimilars are provisions within the Affordable Care Act (the 2010 passage of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act opening the door for biosimilars), payment reform and bundled payments supporting physician use, and the increased scrutiny on the value of healthcare in the United States.

Other questions remain open: will patient education and support for biosimilars match the reference product, or will specialty pharmacy and large health systems pick up patient support services? How will the integrity of pharmacovigilance be impacted when switching has occurred? What will happen when physicians need to overturn automatic substitution for a specific patient, despite interchangeability?

The introduction of biosimilars has opened the door for many changes to our healthcare landscape, with the promise of large savings in the future. Yet there are many questions to be answered and changes to be made across a large and fragmented system before biosimilars take a majority share, spanning legal and regulatory hurdles, clinical considerations, manufacturing challenges, pricing and contracting incentives — So for now, you probably won’t feel a thing.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Access, Branding, clinical trials, Design, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Pharmaceutical, Pharmacists, Research | Tagged | Comments closed
Feb6

Expensive medicines and where it’s all going?

Aussie Blog Image2The Australian Commonwealth spending on PBS drugs is currently around $9 billion AUD per annum.  It is forecast to be over $15 billion by 2023. We are seeing this upward trend due to the increasing incidence of chronic illnesses and conditions, the ageing population of Australia and the cost of new PBS medications.

We know the hurdle to getting drugs listed on the PBS is higher than ever.  But when they get listed why are these medications so expensive for governments and should we listen to those criticising the Pharmaceutical Companies who discover, commercialise and manufacturer these medications?

Bruce Booth wrote an interesting article recently on Forbes.com where he looked at two very different calculations around the total cost of drug development.  All things equal, and dipping into a Tufts Centre for the Study for Drug Development, it looks like the cost is now upwards on $2 billion USD per drug.  That’s huge by anyones standards.  But consider the journey to approval.

  • It takes an average of 10 years to bring a discovery to the approval stage.
  • Only 8% of drug candidates make it from discovery to the market – and that’s regulatory approval not reimbursement.  Reimbursement is a further stumbling block.
  • The cost of failures is the largest part of the overall cost in this analysis.

70% of the calculated cost of developing a new drug is that cost associated with the failures along the way. In a good article, Booth suggests we need to do things better, faster and cheaper.

I tend to agree. New technologies and the digital world we live in should mean we can share new information, new clinical data and new treatments more rapidly. Most products in the drug-pipeline are now complex, highly technical and often target new pathways and therefor HCPs will need to have a more in-depth understanding of the mechanism of action and science behind these innovative compounds and classes of drugs.

The other question is how can the ‘Big Data’ we keep reading about help us develop the right products for the right patients in a healthcare landscape that is constantly changing and evolving?  A load of patient, HCP and product data itself won’t help us.  We need to be able to analyse and sift through it to find meaningful truths and insights that change the way we develop and commercialise new medicines.  This will make a difference.

 

Originally published on Ogilvy CommonHealth Australia’s blog: http://www.ogilvycommonhealth.com.au/blog

 

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in behavior change, clinical trials, Culture, Data, Health & Wellness, Managed Care, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Science | Comments closed
Oct17

At Face Value

At Face Value ImageThe recent 60 Minutes episode on the “eye popping” cost of cancer drugs painted pharmaceutical manufacturers and community oncologists as greedy scoundrels only interested in making huge profits at the expense of desperate cancer patients.

Reporter Lesley Stahl keyed in on a common target in the debate over rising healthcare costs—drug price, and a new term being used by oncologists: “financial toxicity.”  The program singled out ziv-aflibercept (Sanofi-Aventis) as a high-priced agent for metastatic colorectal cancer that cut its price in half only after three doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering wrote a negative op-ed article in the New York Times suggesting that manufacturers determine drug prices similar to how one shops in a Turkish bizarre.

To emphasize the industry’s greed, the producers highlighted imatinib (Novartis), and although they acknowledged it was indeed a true advance in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia when it was approved, they chose to focus only on how the price has more than tripled over the past decade despite the availability of several newer, more effective treatment options.

Media coverage like this, along with ongoing policy discussions, continue to focus on whether the cost of new cancer therapies is putting urgently needed, life-saving therapy out of the reach of patients.

The Personal Side

Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide supports a number of organizations, including a number focused on cancer and oncology patients. One such nonprofit is the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), an organization founded in 1953 and dedicated to harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to conquer cancer. Through their efforts, and the efforts of other institutions like them, a promising new class of therapy called immune-oncology (IO) has emerged.

Think about that—over six decades of research, funding, clinical trials, and education has led to some of today’s most promising IO agents. I imagine there are a lot of lost bets along the way; despite the millions of dollars that go into the research and development of new cancer treatments, only 13% of all compounds in development are ever approved for use in patients.1

But through the perseverance, commitment and investment of many, including the pharmaceutical manufacturers, what today is a reality would not have been possible.

I had the opportunity to attend CRI’s annual event and had the pleasure of meeting many post doc fellows and researchers, and I can assure you the value they saw in their work was not the profit their research would have for their companies, but the life-saving impact it would have for patients urgently awaiting new treatments.

One such person I met at the CRI event was “Sue,” a young woman recently married and living with a rare form of cancer (angiosarcoma) diagnosed in less than 300 people per year. She told me about how appreciative she was of the funding from CRI, manufacturers, and industry to the work she was doing and the hope that she’ll one day play a role in helping cure people like herself living with a deadly form of cancer.

Which made me think… If manufacturers and nonprofit organizations like CRI did not sustain the commitment and investment (in the billions) in search of new therapies, including areas of rare disease, what would become of patients like Sue, without the combined efforts and commitment of these institutions?

The Flip Side

So today, patients are being asked to absorb a larger portion of their prescription costs as a result of more aggressive payer cost management and growing pressure on healthcare budgets overall.

However, it’s important to recognize the overall savings to the system cannot be recognized in terms of savings for a patient individually. And the true value of cancer medicines goes well beyond the cost of a particular drug.

R&D of novel treatments has the potential to not only help patients today, but also provide longer-term value by investing in therapies for tomorrow. By limiting our view to a short-term cost savings approach, the potential to develop new, innovative treatment approaches, like IO, may never occur.

So when considering the price of drugs, remember this reflects the cost and risk of medicine development, the complexity inherent in treating cancer, as well as value to the patient, the healthcare system, and to society. So don’t take price at face value!

The Rest of the Story

So while the producers of 60 Minutes focused solely on the “devastating” side effect of cancer (the bill), a far worse side effect would be if manufacturers chose to cut the amount (billions) they now invest at risk to commercialize new therapies. This would be especially detrimental in rare disease areas like angiosarcoma, where the investment will outweigh the profit—and ultimately the patient would have the most to lose.

Through an environment and policy framework incentivizing and rewarding research, a healthy competitive environment will pave the way for new advances so desperately needed, and everyone benefits.

One thing is for certain, the path forward should focus on continued (albeit targeted) investments, improving access to these important oncolytic advances, development of biosimilars, and for crying out loud, doing a better job communicating the value proposition (aka, demonstrate product value) of emerging therapies to providers, payers AND patients.

Reference: 1. DiMasi A, Reichert JM, Feldman L, Malins A. Clinical approval success rates for investigational cancer drugs. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2013;9(13):329-335.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Culture, Health & Wellness, Medical Education, Medicine, Patient Communications | Tagged | Comments closed
Sep23

Access to High-Cost Medications: A Balancing Act

UKBlogImageSmallAs continuing innovation moves us further toward personalized healthcare and the development of targeted treatments, how can patients across Europe ensure they have fair access to high-cost medications?

Securing reimbursement remains one of the biggest challenges to delivering market access for new treatments. The debate around balancing tight health budgets with fair access for patients is shaping the way governments and payers respond to these advancements. Cancer treatments are a specific concern, especially those designed to target rare and aggressive cancers, and as such have a particularly high development cost per patient.

So what’s the way forward?

This was the question posed by the Ogilvy Healthworld UK Market Access team earlier this summer when we brought together a panel of leading experts in front of an audience of industry figures, academics and patient representatives.

The panelists discussed the issue from the viewpoint of each of the 4P’s of healthcare—payers, prescribers, policymakers and patients—to chart out the future course of reimbursement.

What was the outcome?

After a far-ranging debate, five key ideas stood out as important for taking the conversation on the introduction of high-cost medicine ahead:

1. While schemes like the UK Cancer Drugs Fund have been a success, they may prove unsustainable in the long term. New systems to assess and support the uptake of new treatments must be a national priority.

2. Three key areas that will affect the cost of medication over the next decade are:

– Technological development; as new innovations make treatments more expensive, not cheaper

– How care is delivered; and potential cost-savings that can be made in reforming healthcare systems

– Whether health systems can reform the way that healthcare is funded to support uptake of new technology

3. New treatments will not necessarily lead to cost-efficiencies, but rather higher costs for payers. This means that demand and pricing must be controlled to maintain a healthy balance between supporting innovation and ensuring access to new medicines for patients.

4. Current value assessments are too narrow and need to be reformed to better reflect their full value. As newer medicines that raise costs are developed, a more complex assessment model will be necessary to ensure that their total cost/ benefit to the healthcare system can be successfully mapped.

5. If payers are to be able to afford new high-cost medicines, cost-efficiencies must be found in the delivery of services. Although healthcare systems should remain a center of healthcare delivery across Europe, it was agreed that the way they operate must fundamentally change to provide care in the most effective way possible. This should be focused on reducing hospital visits and supporting “community-based care” systems.

 

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Access, Culture, Fair Balance, Health & Wellness, International, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed
Mar4

Let the Sunshine (Act) In

5116469For many of us in the healthcare industry, the advent of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has loomed large and ominous. The mere mention conjures up visions of significant changes in the way we work with healthcare providers (HCPs), in addition to endless data collection and reporting. On March 31, 2014, healthcare manufacturers are required to submit their first annual federal reports; these reports will include data captured from August 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. By September 30, 2014, CMS will publically disclose the information on their website. This regulation is associated with the Affordable Care Act, and as we have come to learn, there may be changes, revisions, or postponements to current guidance on reporting and timing of data review and corrections. Nevertheless, the industry needs to be prepared and many of our clients have been adapting for some time.

So to date, do we really know how this regulation will transform our corner of the healthcare geography? Are we prepared to adapt and innovate?

From a medical education and scientific publication perspective, we have already seen substantial changes in the way our clients collaborate with HCPs.  For example, in December of 2013, GSK announced that the company will begin a process that will effectively stop direct payments to HCPs for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences. To fill this gap, it appears the company may expand its focus on developing multichannel capability to support the dissemination of information about its products and relevant disease states to healthcare professionals.

The effects of the Sunshine Act are also noticeable in the scientific publication realm. Due to the transparency requirements, academic research institutions are once again modifying their guidelines and tightening their restrictions on working with industry on clinical trials and subsequent data publication to avoid the perception of and potential for conflicts of interest. These restrictions also pertain to the development of disease-state articles that update standards of care and provide best practice approaches for HCPs and allied health professionals.

Clearly the Sunshine Act is meant to shine the light of transparency and public disclosure. But it also has the potential to hamper scientific exchange, which is the lifeblood of effective medical communications.

How do we as an industry respond? My vote is to adapt along with our clients and lead and encourage the innovation and continued delivery of robust scientific exchange. How will you respond?

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com. Please allow 24 hours for response.

 

 

Also posted in Affordable Care Act, Clients, Ethics, Healthcare Communications, Medical Education, Research, Science, scientific publication, Sunshine Act | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed
Oct23

Branding the Science

What is the “purple pill?” Most people can instantly identify this as the core branding identity behind one of the best selling prescription drugs: Nexium. But would the science behind the drug command a similar reaction of immediate recognition?

Branding the science is just as important as building the brand, and may in fact be a part of its core foundation. The unique scientific attributes of the compound are key to differentiating the brand from its competitors and establishing its overall value. Before there are platforms, positions, and brand personalities, there is a molecule that has to be called something by the press, publications, investors, investigators, and the competition.

Often, the terms used to describe new market entrants are arbitrary, focus on a particular aspect of the molecule, and are commonly predetermined by medical researchers. Scientists may excel at science—but communication of the benefits of that science is often not so clear and meaningful. Science is rife with arbitrary labels that have little or nothing to do with the key properties of the thing described, or why we should care about the molecule in the first place. Even in the most well documented content areas, such as the hepatitis C virus, labels for fundamental drug properties are essentially random. NS5a? NS3a? The labels for protease inhibitors simply reference the proteins identified in a laboratory assay. There is something here, but naming an entire class of drug over something as banal as “non structural protein 5a” seems like an enormous lost opportunity to talk about the truly differentiating properties of the drug.

However, a strong scientific lexicon is the first critical step to introducing a new product or brand long before it actually comes to market. It must accurately reflect the scientific elements of the story and be clear, concise, and simple. The scientific lexicon must also be differentiating, sustainable, ownable, and must create a unified value proposition across a broad range of stakeholders. Most importantly, the scientific lexicon must be evocative and memorable.

The foundations of a clear scientific lexicon are not inherent in dense academic jargon, and must instead be strategically constructed. To do so, the linguistic landscape of the compound or disease state must be analyzed, while the competitive issues facing the brand and its unique scientific attributes must be identified. Class designation, molecule name, or disease-related language can be built and delivered via virtually any medium.

Once established, the opportunities to leverage the scientific lexicon for a new brand are nearly limitless. However it is essential that marketers begin by saturating internal communications and ingraining routine use among the people who work with the brand every day, such as commercial and clinical teams as well as MSLs.

As pharmaceutical marketers, the opportunity to signal that what is coming now is different from what has come before should not be overlooked or squandered. Once a drug looks reasonably certain to launch—with the amount of talk generated about it by analysts, the medical community, and advocates—it is time to establish significant differentiation in the minds of readers. A strategically crafted scientific lexicon has the potential to be as iconic as bold colors and a catchy tagline. Let’s give products the language that does the molecule justice.

 

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

Also posted in Branding, Great Ideas, Marketing, Pipeline, Science | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed
Sep4

Does the Bell Toll for Traditional Siloed Promotional Activities in a Leaner Compliance-Driven Pharma World?

Our clients are saying that the role of Medical Education will grow in years to come…potentially biting into other traditional areas of the marketing mix. Does this spell disaster for advertising or PR?

Ogilvy Healthworld Medical Education recently surveyed its clients to assess what the future would hold for Med Ed, and the results were both thought-provoking and intriguing. The clients we involved spanned marketing and medical affairs disciplines, in global, national and EMEA roles across a range of small, medium and large pharma companies.

Looking at how agencies would need to respond to changes and turbulence in the pharma environment, five key trends emerged:

  1. We are part of a shifting landscape: attitudes, budgets and people are moving away from Sales and Marketing to Medical Affairs and Market Access. This parallels an increase in educational activities and the slow erosion of PR and promotional activities or their metamorphosis into more educational content. Our clients are telling us: “Clinical data will increasingly be at the heart of educational tools and messages ….medical education will drive a more clinically focused brand strategy and what promotional work that remains will be subject to stricter and stricter regulations.”
  2. Our pharma clients are increasingly concerned about the risk of non-compliance and, in particular, inadvertent off- license promotion. As well as a sharper delineation between promotional versus non-promotional activities, there will be a drive to improve transparency between pharma companies, healthcare practitioners, payers and patients.
  3. The hands-off approach to pharma-sponsored Continuing Medical Education (CME) is becoming a double-edged sword: although companies have reduced regulatory control, they are under increased pressure—and face stiff penalties—if content is non-compliant.
  4. As healthcare professionals communicate increasingly in the virtual space, there will be less reliance solely on face-to-face communication. Digital communications will rise to deliver more cost-effective, innovative  solutions to more targeted audiences and enhance the value of face-to-face communications.
  5. As client teams continue to downsize, there will be a growing need for strategic communications planning expertise within agencies. Potentially, those with the greatest capability to become long-term strategic partners will increasingly be seconded in as interim managers: “As pharma becomes more risk averse and cost conscious, clients will need agencies who can lighten their load, in the new leaner, compliance-driven pharma world.”

In the relentless drive to rationalize healthcare spend and tailor therapies to meet unmet needs in increasingly segmented patient groups, new drugs will hit increasing scrutiny.   In this new world, data will be king—and Med Ed is ideally and uniquely equipped to use this information to justify premium pricing over cheaper, established medicines. Ultimately, pharma’s quest for improved transparency, trust and reputation must be underpinned by programs that lead to enduring change, but which are compliant in the stringent regulatory environment in which we operate. Medical education is not just about knowledge acquisition anymore. It must facilitate and drive behavioral change, among a range a stakeholder groups operating under strict regulatory compliance. While behavioral change is most effectively achieved when all communications disciplines are harnessed, including PR, advertising and market access, it will increasingly be underpinned by robust Med Ed.

Does the bell toll for traditional siloed promotional activities in a leaner compliance-driven pharma world?

 

Also posted in Access, Analytics, behavior change, Marketing, Medical Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed
Jul31

Affordability of Medicines—the New Kid on the Block

You know the feeling: you pop into the shop and see something you want to buy, but times are tight and you simply can’t afford it. You want the best, but you feel compelled to consider all your spending priorities and choose to go for the less expensive brand—it’s a question of affordability.

In today’s environment, this is a challenge facing healthcare systems throughout the world. Coupled with this, more healthcare resources are being consumed as people are living longer with increasingly complex health problems. Add to this the increased complexity of how national health systems are assessing a medicine’s value, and you have the perfect storm.

Indeed, just as you weigh up whether you can afford to pay for something, those who pay for medicines (termed “payers”) all have affordability at the forefront of their minds. Governments are addressing the issue by driving further healthcare reforms, while payers are aggressively managing costs, limiting therapy choice, and shifting more of the cost burden to consumers.

However, if industry is to effectively support payers in their informed decision-making, it is important that they are viewed as investors in their community’s health and not simply gatekeepers of the budget.

As investors in health, payers deploy a variety of instruments to support medicines’ cost control. These can be broadly divided into supply-side and demand-side approaches.

Demand-side instruments include:

  • National-level price negotiations/price cuts
  • Reference pricing systems–using the cost of other similar drugs to set the price
  • Health technology assessments–assessing the value of a medicine using a range of tools including cost- and comparative-effectiveness
  • Promoting generic medicines and parallel imports–parallel imports refer to the practice of importing a medicine from another market where the medicine is cheaper

Supply-side instruments include:

  • Patient co-payments–this is the practice where patients will pay a certain percentage of the medicine’s cost
  • Reimbursement restrictions–restricting the money paid for a particular drug
  • Delisting–removing a product from a list of drugs that will be paid for
  • Prescribing budgets–setting financial budgets for the prescribing of medicines
  • Formularies and guidelines–a list of medicines that have been approved to be prescribed, or their incorporation within guidelines that should be adhered to

To date, the pharmaceutical industry has focused predominantly on communicating about cost and cost-effectiveness to secure optimal pricing and reimbursement for their brands at a market level. Arguably, more needs to be done to demonstrate the true benefit of treatment to patients, the communities in which they live, and society at large.

Some solutions to help demonstrate the true value of a treatment include:

  • Evaluating and demonstrating the longer-term patient outcomes
  • Demonstrating and communicating the economic value across all stages of a product lifecycle
  • Supporting payers to identify which patient segments would benefit most from treatment
  • Relating the outcomes demonstrated through clinical trials to local demographics

There is no doubt that the industry continues to go through a challenging time, while the economic crisis faced by many countries is only likely to get worse. In this environment, the issue of affordability is higher up on governments’ and payers’ agendas. However, by understanding and meeting the needs of payers and their communities, the industry will be better placed to ensure patient access to their medicines.

 

 

Also posted in Access, adherence, Clients, clinical trials, Efficacy, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Managed Care, Marketing, Reimbursement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed
Jul17

HCPs Who Access Data: Just Like the Rest of Us!

Guess what! Scientists, clinicians and other healthcare professionals own and use smartphones, iPads and an array of desktop and personal computers. These same people are fundamentally interested in the clinical studies and scientific evidence that result from research studies. They read specialty and  peer-reviewed journals and are asking, “When will I be able to read more via my personal devices?” As lay consumers, they can access everything from instructions on how to build a nuclear bomb to the recipe for Uzbeki-style lamb via their digital devices, yet the journal articles that satisfy their professional needs and passions are not yet uniformly available. Go figure!

SCI Scientific Communications & Information recently utilized a three-wave electronic survey to understand just how eager clinicians, journal authors and industry stakeholders are to receive data in a digital format. The results are in line with society at large. They want more!

Data collected from 50 internal medicine and primary care practitioners showed 86% accessed peer-reviewed literature from 2010 to 2011, and the overall proportion of information accessed with these modalities increased from 52.2% to 64.6%. Mobile tablets showed the highest percentage increases.  Preliminary results from 15 authors who published more than four articles over the last three years show that they decreased their print-only submissions to 15.3%, from 25% of the submissions two years ago.

While computers and laptops remain the primary devices for accessing online peer-reviewed content, HCPs say they will want and expect that journal articles become available for e-readers and smartphone applications. These devices are likely to outpace PCs/laptops based on portability and convenience.  Industry stakeholders anticipate a rise in open access and non-print options. They aim to please as long as regulatory and compliance agents within their organizations get on board and clarify the rules around more novel dissemination approaches, such as podcasts. In the meantime, they support open access publications and utilize QR coding at congresses to disseminate posters and presentations.

Like all other consumers, HCP readers perceive that technology will make their access to information more timely, cost-effective and convenient. They want to see e-mail notifications of new articles, smartphone applications that work for middle-aged sets of eyes and tablet applications.

Summary excerpted:

Hudson C,  Cecere E, Yalamanchili R, Anderson M, Pucci M, Aloia D, Scheckner B. Utilization and attitudes on technological advances in medical publications. Podium presentation, ISMPP, 2012.  

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Education, Great Ideas, Healthcare Communications, Medical Education, Physician Communications, Research, Statistics, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed