One of the fundamental challenges facing pharmaceutical
companies is finding a balance between developing and manufacturing lifesaving
medications and making money for shareholders. It seems like the ultimate
conflict: either you put your patients first or your profits. But it doesn't
always have to be that way.
As part of an MM&M webcast event last month, titled How
to engage patients in daily health management, Meryl Weinreb, director of
patient programs, oncology, AstraZeneca, offered a series of arguments for
viewing these goals as part of the same agenda.
“What is good for patients is usually good for business,”
she said. “Yes, we're in business to sell medications, but we're doing that
because we believe that our medications help patients deal with serious
If you want to be successful in this business, Weinreb said,
you really have to think through how you can make things better for the people
who are potential customers of your medications. “It's about knowing the needs
of your customer and meeting them in a way that is better than the other guy,”
she said. “That's the business we're in.”
Surely, that's easier said than done? Well, no, not really.
In fact, it's pretty simple, according to Weinreb, herself a breast cancer
survivor. “The most critical thing is to thoroughly understand the people who
are dealing with a diagnosis,” she said. “People don't take medications in a
vacuum. What were they
experiencing even before the drug was prescribed? What were the physical
and emotional issues? What can they expect [from their treatment]?”
Of course, a lack of patient compliance is a barrier to both
profitability and patient health. And in Weinreb's category, oncology, the
average treatment regimen is five years. “It's an eternity,” she exclaims, “and
we need to help people wrap their brains around that.” And while non-compliance
obviously leads to lost product revenue, Weinreb was very quick to add a human
cost to the equation: “Our data suggest that by year three we've lost about 50%
of our patients, which is very unfortunate because [breast cancer] occurrence
rates tend to peak in the third year.” After all, what's good for patients is
usually good for business.
So how do you engage patients for the duration of their
treatment period? After all, many have tried and failed. Weinreb suggested
providing relevant info not readily available elsewhere and to inject a bit of
fun. “It shouldn't necessarily be boring,” she said. “Oncology is a very
serious disease state but people sometimes see the humor. We should address the
whole patient, because the patient is more than the disease.”
If you want to see more of Weinreb's insights, you can watch
the webcast at www.mmm-online.com.
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First, entries for the MM&M Awards must be submitted by
May 30, 2008. As usual, your work will be judged by an independent panel of
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