A marketer and a patient

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James Chase
James Chase

How would you feel if you'd been told that you'll be dead within six weeks?

That was the rather gruesome question that Ian Talmage, a 41-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, posed to delegates who assembled at last month's MM&M Virtual Summit 2013.

This is how Talmage felt: terrified.

The Germany-based SVP, global marketing, for Bayer HealthCare was dealt this grim prognosis 10 years ago, by his surgeon, following a diagnosis of cancer. “One of the things that became very clear to me is that I wasn't in control of what I was doing,” Talmage recounted. “I was moved to a point where enormous fear took over. I was seeking information, I was looking for dialogue, I wanted advice.”

(By the way, don't refer to this as Talmage's “patient journey”—“Journey? It wasn't a journey! It was: what can I do to survive?”)

What better place to start than the industry he had embraced and trusted for more than three decades? So, with purpose and confidence, he visited the web portals of a few pharmaceutical companies from whom the products he was to receive in chemotherapy were sourced.

“I wanted information, very simple information,” he said. “Information about diet, what should I be eating prior to going into chemo to maintain strength… nothing unduly challenging but it became very, very important to me.” Sadly he didn't receive a single reply.

Down but not out, Talmage found a patient group, which he duly emailed. Within the hour, he had received the answers for which he had been searching. But that was just the start. The group continued to contact him spontaneously during the course of his chemo and beyond. “I found that the reassurance and the care I was receiving, albeit virtually, was extraordinarily important,” he said. And it wasn't just practical advice. “When I felt at my most vulnerable, the patient group was there, understood my anxiety and talked to me.”

The part of this story in which Talmage beat the odds and survived cancer is wonderful. The part in which his industry went missing right when he needed it is not so wonderful. If you're expecting him to be less than pleased about the latter, you'd be right.

“As custodians of a great deal of information, we, the industry, have an enormous amount to offer in that regard,” he said. “But are we able to change our position from one where we ‘talk at' to one where we ‘talk with'? We need to be part of this conversation so we can ensure that we are not only categorizing the efficacy, the safety, the dosing of these excellent products, but that we are also there to answer questions.

“When we think of the pharma industry, we have people within the company who are extremely well-informed, but the information isn't always seen to be balanced or trustworthy. We need to do an enormous amount to bring that trust back where it should be.

“Everybody I work with is motivated by this industry, and the good that we do, and the innovation that we drive.”

If you missed Talmage's seminal presentation, don't worry, you are in luck. To stream the full 45 minutes of “What does it mean to truly put the patient first?” along with the four other sessions covering co-pay cards, the regulatory environment, digital pharma and the future of the industry, register at the MM&M Virtual Summit 2013 page at mmm-online.com.

I hope to run into your avatar soon.
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