How Soon Should You Hire A Patient Advocacy Team?

Referenced in mission statements, press releases and marketing materials, 'patient-centricity' has been a buzzword within the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade.

It's at the core of everything the industry is about - saving patient lives.

So it wasn't a surprise that patient-centricity was a theme that ran throughout the CTO Southern California conference. One of the hottest debates in this area centred around patient advocacy and its importance in drug development strategy.

 

3. HOW SOON SHOULD YOU HIRE A PATIENT ADVOCACY TEAM?

 

The role of a patient advocate is to educate and emotionally support a patient as they navigate their treatment, promoting the patient's well-being.

Not only do advocacy groups help educate patients and champion their rights, but they also point them towards relevant clinical trials. Therefore, they have a direct influence on the recruitment, engagement and success of a trial - making the relationships between advocacy groups and the industry essential in getting the right drug to the right patient.

Pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, CROs and medical device companies have been partnering with patient advocacy groups since the 50s. However, the relationships between industry and advocacy has become much more significant with the rise of the patient-centric approach.

We've witnessed this first hand here at Meet; many of our clients now have dedicated patient advocacy departments, who are responsible for bridging the gap in communication between patients, nonprofit organisations, advocacy groups and the industry. More recently, we've also seen the emergence of more senior titles within the market too, reflecting the growing importance of the function.

As the industry continues to evolve rapidly, the influence of patient advocacy is going to grow.

Typically, a patient advocacy team is only brought into play after in-human testing begins. Traditionally the team would have focused on creating a compassionate environment and ensuring that patients feel respected. A tangible example would be when a company begins sharing trial results. The information released is often highly technical and can be intimidating for a patient and their family. A Patient advocates' role is to ensure that any communication, for example, a press release, is mindful of the patient.

But is that too late?

This question was arguably THE biggest talking point at CTO Southern California 2020.

What was argued at CTO is, the patient advocacy should be included at a much earlier stage of drug development. Patients should be considered at the very beginning of drug development strategy and have a voice throughout the whole process, from clinical trial design to post-approval.

The industry can then leverage the patients' expertise and unique knowledge of their disease to provide more effective patient-centric treatments.

Everyone we spoke to across the conference agreed, yes, this is the future of the Life Sciences industry.

Our larger clients are already making structural changes to involve patients earlier. For example, Covance actively engages with patients to understand the burden of their disease so that they can design protocols accordingly. Astellas have implemented a Patient Experience Team who work cross-functionally to ensure patient advocacy is embedded in its corporate culture. And UCB has made significant structural changes so that teams are organised by therapeutic area, instead of by function (to name just a few).

But, for many, it's not commercially viable.

For smaller biopharmaceuticals who may only have a project headcount of 5, it is not practical to have a professional who's sole purpose is to speak for the patient in the early stages of development.

We would agree; the industry is experiencing a paradigm shift as everything becomes more patient-centric. Yet, there is still a disjunction between the ambition and the practicality of being truly patient-centric. Do you agree?

Let us know below!

Missed the first parts of 'Four things we learnt from CTO Southern California 2020'? Click here to read part 1 on biomarkers and here to read part 2 on how to choose a CRO!

Alternatively, for more information on CTO and the upcoming events we're attending, get in touch with Georgia or Sean:

Georgia Cowderoy - georgia@peoplewithchemistry.com

Sean Farrell - sean@peoplewithchemistry.com

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