Asking The Big Questions

Pharma’s shift towards preventative care reflects its wider role within the healthcare system, says Anne Beal, Global Head of Patient Solutions, Sanofi.

“If the overarching goal across the healthcare industry is to truly improve patient outcomes, then in the pursuit of this goal, none of the parts should be working in isolation, whether it be the physicians, payers, hospitals or pharma,” says Anne Beal, Global Head of Patient Solutions, Sanofi. 

Beal’s words act as a rallying call for pharma to adopt a more holistic approach to improving patient outcomes. Of course, pharma’s primary posture is to effectively treat a patient’s illness, but finding new and dynamic ways to intervene earlier to prevent the long-term negative impacts of having a disease reflects the current reorientation that’s emerging across the industry, says Beal.

“The whole focus on improving patient outcomes is really creating this shift, encouraging us to clearly define our value and to really hold ourselves accountable for the value that we bring,” says Beal. She regards the shift in the US market to value-based purchasing and the intensifying efforts to improve patient touchpoints as supportive of this effort.

Health prevention is best understood as a “continuum” of three different stages: primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention, says Beal. Primary prevention is focused on preventing a disease from developing, secondary prevention focuses on reducing the impact of a disease by treating it as early as possible and tertiary prevention is about minimising the impact of an established disease. Pharma mainly works in the secondary and tertiary stages of prevention, says Beal.

The second and tertiary stage is where pharma companies have traditionally focused because this is where they deliver their products but Beal thinks these areas can also provide a springboard towards more primary forms of prevention. For example, Sanofi encourages early diagnosis through the marketing campaign of a new product, she says. “Launching a new product to market raises awareness not only about the need the to treat the specific condition but also obviously that one of our products can potentially have an impact on that condition.”

Finding ways to work with patients across the entire continuum of prevention is one potential solution, Beal posits, but this also prevents a key challenge. “Most people start to engage with pharma when they already have a product so even if we had all the best programs in the world, it's a challenge to address early prevention, which must target the right people before they become our customers, our patients.”

But in the same breath, this touchpoint also presents opportunity. “If you are working with someone who has diabetes, you can also say to them: patients with diabetes should also have the flu vaccine, this works as a preventative measure since you are already working with this patient on their diabetes; there is also opportunity to engage with them on other types of issues and other types of conditions.”                          

Is there currently much movement in this space? Progress is ultimately afoot, but it is early days, says Beal. “Companies across the board are still figuring out different ways of adopting a more patient-focused strategy and it’s being defined in different ways.” They are still at the point of “research, patient engagement, patient-support programmes and perfecting patient touchpoints” before real gains can be made in preventative care. “The fact that companies are trying to figure it out in a variety of different ways is a point of progress.”    

Anne Beal will be presenting her industry insight at the Patient Summit USA 2017 event in November. 

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