Has patient engagement stalled in Pharma?

Some might think so. Having spoken to a number of patient engagement agitators recently, there is clear frustration at a lack of sustained patient engagement momentum within Pharma with one or two companies even perceived to have recently gone into reverse gear.

Most of us would have loved to have seen business as usual progress emerge after so much patient centred talk over the last few years. It is important though to reflect on reality. Pharma companies are presenting more examples of good patient engagement practice that clearly delivers value, especially in the clinical study delivery arena. Regulatory intent has been expressed by the FDA. Substantive collaborative initiatives such as IMI PARADIGM are up and running.

A lot of this good work has been driven by individuals, both within and outside of Pharma. The number of those individuals is increasing and the noise they generate is getting louder. That noise now appears to being heard at a more senior level with potential alignment developing between Board, CEO and Senior Leadership. Where this top down intent meets bottom up delivery, companies will emerge that will set the pace for others to follow. These are the companies that will differentiate, inspire and meaningfully connect their science with patients to deliver value across the medicine life cycle.

Intent though has to be supported by the right infrastructure that can make that intent a reality. Companies seem to struggle with this infrastructure piece. Simple questions remain, ‘how do I talk with a patient’ (many still ask ‘can I talk to a patient’)? Where are they? What questions can I ask them?  The list goes on and on. This needs to stop. Frameworks exist today to enable teams to make life cycle decisions informed by the patient voice. It simply takes a bit of time and commitment to make these frameworks a tangible reality.

We ran a workshop at a company this month, which was opened with board member comment, supported by a CEO video and endorsed by the functional senior leader. This clarity of intent engaged workshop participants to deliver a unified ambition and patient engagement roadmap.

Reflection tells us that patient engagement has not actually stalled. A slow spluttering start maybe, but with two or three companies beginning to reach for the gear stick, momentum will be achieved and genuine leaders will accelerate into the distance for the rest to follow.


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