I decided to read through the annual reports of the top 10 pharma companies to see how much of a clearly stated strategic priority patient-focus was and how it is defined.
Unsurprisingly, every pharma company, I researched, states that one of their goals is to better meet patient needs. Most companies however do not disclose how they define these needs. Only Eli Lilly and Novartis go into more detail. Lilly describes patient needs as the ability to “live longer, healthier and more active lives“. Novartis believes patients needs to be “innovative medicines, prevention, affordable solutions and self-care”. AstraZenca, on the other hand, seems to view patient needs as something that is constantly evolving and thus needs to be tracked consistently “by working closely with patients and their healthcare providers to understand what they need and what they value“.
All pharma companies also agreed that developing innovative medicines is key to meeting patient needs. Yet again some are more explicit about how they will guide their innovation. Roche takes innovation from the angle of personalized medicine: “If we can intelligently bring together true innovation in medicine and better tracking of disease, we’ll be able to do a better job of tailoring treatment options to different patient populations and identifying which patients are most likely to respond to a particular option.“ Johnson and Johnson also tries to “converge current medical technologies in new ways to prevent illness, enhance health, halt or reverse disease progression, and mitigate the effects of aging.“
So why do I talk about patient focus and innovation? Well, I believe that social media is the perfect tool for pharma companies to achieve both. Patients online testimonies about their lives with the disease provide unprecedented intimate insight into patient needs that pharma should listen to carefully and use to drive innovation.
Finally, as this report from Royal College of Physicians points out: “patients remain concerned that they do not enjoy equal access to medicines, nor do they believe that the full range of innovative medicines that are available is brought to their to attention.“ Social media provides many levers to communicate and collaborate with patients online to restore trust and improve awareness, access and adherence to treatment.