What Patient Centric Leadership Looks Like

Paul Simms talks to Gitte P. Aabo, President & CEO of LEO Pharma, about patient centricity, new solutions within dermatology, partnerships and what the future holds.



Paul Simms: Where do you believe your biggest opportunity lies over the next 18 to 24 months?   

Gitte Aabo: Our biggest opportunity both over the next 18 to 24 months and also going forward lies in focusing on patients and understanding the unmet needs of the patients. We wish to help people achieve healthy skin and to bring the best possible solutions to dermatology patients. 

Focus on the patients means understanding what it’s really like, living with a skin disease. To get this in-depth understanding, we have had anthropologists living together with psoriasis patients in various parts of the world. Soon, we will be launching some of our first solutions co-created with patients; solutions that combine safety and efficacy and are easy-to-use. 

Truly understanding the patients and their unmet needs is for us in LEO right now the biggest challenge and also the biggest opportunity. 

Paul Simms: If your priority is to add further value to patients, what does greater stakeholder collaboration actually enable?  

Gitte Aabo: First of all, it is important for me to emphasize that when we work on improving our stakeholder relations in all parts of the business, integrity and transparency are always at the heart! 

Greater stakeholder collaboration makes it possible for us to provide the best possible patient solutions. 

Stakeholder collaboration takes many forms. Earlier this year the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Resolution on Psoriasis. This is a huge milestone for psoriasis patients around the world. The WHO Resolution recognises their burden of disease and recognises how they are often stigmatized. In partnership with IFPMA (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations), LEO supported IFPA (International Federation of Psoriasis Associations) and their awareness activities that ultimately ended with the resolution being passed by the World Health Assembly. 

Paul Simms: How are you working that might be different from other pharma companies?   

Gitte Aabo: Our unique ownership model (we’re fully owned by the LEO Foundation and have no external shareholders) gives us the privilege of long-term planning. This enables us to engage in long-term patient centric activities that may be more challenging for companies with a different ownership model. 

One of our important long-term patient-centric activities is our QualityCareTM programme. QualityCareTM is an individualized patient support programme providing support, guidance and motivation for people with skin diseases through a multi-disciplinary approach. The ambition is to help people take control of their disease and improve their quality of life. Through QualityCare,TM we seek to extend our care offering beyond pharmaceutical products alone. 

Another example of long-term activities is in Canada where we are working in collaboration with a province government on improving awareness of the damaging effect of too extensive sun exposure. In Egypt, we are supporting psoriasis clinics and in Lebanon and Tunisia we are supporting a ‘psoriasis bus’ to help patients. 

Furthermore, we recently started an integrated care project in an ambulatory rehab setting to secure better outcomes for patients living with psoriasis in Germany. 

Paul Simms: Do you have a specific example of recent initiatives whereby you have experienced better outcomes through collaboration?   

Gitte Aabo: We actively seek to enhance and expand strategic partnerships to further help patients. It is vital for us to continue to advance the scientific understanding of dermatological diseases. To achieve this, we collaborate with professional associations and we invest in health services research. 

One example is a recent non-interventional study in Germany including about 300 dermatologists and more than 800 patients. We obtained important insights by assessing the treatment satisfaction in patients with actinic keratoses (a precursor for skin cancer). 

Another example that I would like to highlight is the Psoriasis Treatment Optimisation Programme (PSO-TOP). This is a large (1800 patients) investigator-initiated study which assesses a newly developed patient education tool and its impact on improving real-life effectiveness – by optimizing patient satisfaction, adherence and outcomes. 

Paul Simms: Do you see Value-Added Services playing an important role in your future?  

Gitte Aabo: Yes we do. We see value-added services, such as our QualityCareTM program, as a vital part of our future business model. 

The patients and also the payer landscapes are transforming in many of our key markets. To cope with these changes, we have to change and revisit existing business models to remain competitive. 

Value-added patient support programs are in the interest of patients who request information and support to be treated optimally. It is also in the interest of payers as adherence to a treatment can ensure better use of healthcare resources. 

We hope to create win-win situations, providing value for patients, the healthcare systems and the industry. 

Paul Simms: Can a company like yours somehow incentivize these types of collaborations (Value-Added Services) and patient-focused partnerships? 

Gitte Aabo: Yes we can. The pharmaceutical industry and the public healthcare sector have a shared interest in improving quality and ensuring the best use of healthcare resources. We are currently involved in projects with health authorities, health insurances and health care providers that support and empower patients to cope with their chronic illness and the stress caused by their disease. The incentive for collaboration is to achieve win-win situations, providing value for patients, the healthcare systems and the industry. 

Paul Simms: Where can pharma make the most impact on the patient in your opinion?   

Gitte Aabo: I think we can support patients by driving holistic solutions involving stakeholders across the healthcare system. We have insights and understanding of diseases, treatments, and patient treatment pathways, and we constantly strive to improve our understanding of what it is like living with a skin disease. Furthermore, we can bring various kinds of stakeholders together and create a platform for a holistic dialogue leading to new solutions. 

Paul Simms: Where do you see the role of the pharma company moving to in the future? What space will they occupy?   

Gitte Aabo: If you look at the future trends, I believe, that key developments will be personalized medicines, new payer landscapes, integrated healthcare solutions and the use of social media. I think ten years down the road, specifically with regard to skin diseases, the digital world will play an important role, skype with your dermatologist; interactive mirrors; apps to support diagnosis and treatment around-the-clock. I also think that supply and distribution systems will change – pharmaceuticals may, for example, be delivered at home. I imagine a future where partnerships will play a larger role for pharmaceutical companies than what we see today - as many healthcare systems will be challenged by an ageing population and a high demand for healthcare for all – we need to find common solutions to ensure the best use of health care resources. 

In LEO, we have been around for more than 100 years and have taken pride in developing safe and efficacious medicine. We also want to be around for the next 100 years. To achieve that, we have to change. We have started to involve patients in the innovation process to innovate holistic solutions that can meet the unmet needs of patients. We basically need to put the patients in the centre of everything we do – products alone are no longer enough. 

Paul Simms: Is there something you personally want to be recognized to have achieved during your time with the company?   

Gitte Aabo: My overall aspiration is to pass on an even stronger LEO Pharma to the next generation of LEO employees. We build on more than 100 years of success and we will continue to grow and innovate for hundreds of years. 

Paul Simms: We look forward to hearing more from you about that at our eyeforpharma Barcelona conference. Many thanks Gitte. 

Gitte Aabo: Thanks Paul. Looking forward to it. 


Gitte will be speaking at the upcoming 13th Annual eyeforpharma Barcelona 2015 conference (24-26 March) where she will be discussing what patient centric leadership looks like, and how the industry will evolve based on this emerging paradigm. See what else will be discussed by clicking here.


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