Biopharma’s future: Building patient trust and value

The Eden Project

The inaugural Anthropy22 took place at The Eden Project in Cornwall, bringing together cross-industry companies and individuals, uniting in a shared goal to seek sustainable change for Britain.

Adelphi Group gathered a panel of experts to give a voice to the biopharmaceutical industry, focussing on quality of life and the environment we live in, and the role of pharma beyond the provision of medicines.

Moderated by ViiV Healthcare’s Head of Government Affairs & Global Public Health, Helen McDowell, the panel included: Mat Phillips, Associate Director of PatientView, global researcher of patient groups; Jacqui Macdonald, Corporate Affairs Lead and Sustainable Development Lead at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI); Mike Metcalfe, Medical Director at Bayer Pharmaceuticals; and Sarah Pollitt, pro-bono advisor to healthcare initiatives.

Adelphi’s CEO Stuart Cooper ignited proceedings by injecting the spirit of Anthropy into the meeting, asking “What more should our industry do, to contribute to a healthy and sustainable future for all people, wherever they live?” Pharma needs to define its collective role in improving wellness and contributing to society in terms of ESG (environment, social, and governance). Society is driving the agenda for sustainable medicines and care for our planet. However, the impact on health across society was the key focus of the panel. As Sarah Pollitt said, “Tackling economic and health inequalities should be a key focus: there is a clear link between deprivation and life expectancy.”

Biopharmaceutical contribution to society

There is absolutely no doubt that pharma has contributed immensely to improvements in health and survival through R&D and innovation in drug development and continues to do so. Due to the industry’s work, many more people are alive today and the UK biopharma industry employs some 268,000 people across the life sciences.

But this is about going beyond; being actively involved in improvements to society. That said, cross-industry collaboration is necessary if the goal of achieving a healthier and more sustainable society is to be achieved. “Companies and governments need to work together. The political, economic, and environmental ecosystems need to be considered holistically and across all stakeholders to drive healthier and sustainable societies,” said Helen McDowell. Collaboration has been achieved, for example, with HIV and multiple companies working to one goal of a cocktail of medicines for the treatment of TB.

PatientView’s participation on the panel also provided a ‘reality check’ in the discussion. Mat Phillips reminded the audience that there is a hierarchy of needs and that equal access to the best care is still patchy. The Westminster to Whitechapel tube example still holds true, with life expectancy diminishing the closer one travels towards the latter destination. Environment and economic status play a key role in health outcomes. This health inequity was particularly noticeable during COVID, with the vulnerable in society suffering the most. Pollitt agreed. Currently, in the UK health is still being determined by economic wealth and, as Pollitt reasoned, medicines cannot be considered in isolation from health of society: “What is required is an agenda for change, and drugs on their own are not the answer. A damp house won’t do any favours to the asthmatic,” she said.

However, Phillips also pointed out that, during COVID, for the first time the value of scientific and regulatory institutions became publicly noticeable. What was also clear was the important place of the pharmaceutical and healthcare diagnostics industries alongside all others involved in responding to public health challenges. Pharma was recognised by the public as innovators, able to act very fast, through their collaboration in the development and delivery of COVID vaccines and new anti-viral treatments. The challenge is how to build on that moment of generally positive public opinion.

However, Jacqui Macdonald countered that industry cannot rest on its laurels in terms of its reputation, and that every pharma company must tangibly demonstrate its commitment to delivering social value. Macdonald spoke about BI’s partnership with Newcastle Hospitals and Global Action Plan to create the clean air framework to improve air quality around hospitals and health centres. Likewise, Mike Metcalfe cited that pharma is starting to look beyond targeting unmet needs, developing, manufacturing, and supplying medicines that contribute to a healthy and sustainable future: “We need to be more selective in R&D; advances taken forward should be those that have the greatest positive impact for health, society, and the environment,” he said.

Progress without expense to the environment

On the question of ESG and greenness, Macdonald asserted that links between the environment and public health are inextricable, and that innovations around data and digital transformation is an obvious way to address both. For example, using data to predict patient needs or upskilling patients around digital literacy could deliver more streamlined care, reducing emissions all round.

Pollitt’s thoughts, meanwhile, were that innovation is holistic, not just about new medicines. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the biggest medical threat to society's current way of life in terms of use of antibiotics in food production, healthcare, and surgery, and worsening AMR threatens the current way of treating diseases and preventing infections post-surgery.

Should we therefore be looking at different incentivisation and funding models for not only AMR, but also across other areas? Metcalfe agreed, noting that a lot of the medicines he prescribed as a physician hadn't been trialled on children. “More incentivisation schemes - like the EMA’s Paediatric Investigation Plans (PIPs) - [are needed] to speed up evidence for new medicines in children,” he said, thereby encouraging greater equity in R&D. Phillips added that innovation for innovation’s sake is tinkering if it doesn’t provide real value for patients, and it is crucial that the public and patients are included in the range of stakeholders that need to be involved to address the existing inequities in healthcare.

Trust, value, and healing health inequities

One thing is certain, if our industry is to play a recognised role in a healthy and sustainable society, public trust and recognition of the value that the biopharma industry brings is key.

When the government speaks of ‘levelling up’, is biopharma doing enough to ‘level up’ healthcare? Developing a medicine is not enough. McDowell maintains that “it is crucial for the biopharma industry to proactively step up its engagement of patients and impacted communities in the medicine development process”. Including them in the planning and delivery of new medicines is essential to drive better access to treatment, care, and services. This requires a healthy, trusting relationship. As Phillips asserts, “gaining and maintaining trust is difficult, and the one thing we can do is try to make sure the value that the pharma industry brings is not just understood but accepted as valuable to society, so pharma is welcomed at the table seeking solutions to build a positive impression - as seen with COVID.”

Current day communications bring additional challenges. As one member of the audience rightly pointed out, “misinformation is a big problem [for] the biopharma industry. With social media, virtual truths become stronger than reality and are difficult to shift.” Metcalfe agreed, stating it is the responsibility of pharma to provide accurate, fair, balanced information for healthcare professionals and patients in an era of fake news and misinformation. This cannot be left to chance and must be taken on as a proactive objective by medical affairs.

What’s next now the conversation has begun

  • Be present and visible

“We must continue to be present at events to talk about biopharma and ESG” - Macdonald

  • Take positive action for the good of society

“Be more selective in our advances. Choose those with greatest positive impact on health and society whilst minimising environmental cost” - Metcalfe

  • Seek collaboration and partnerships

“Prioritise populations and areas that have the greatest unmet need and greatest access challenges to date” - Pollitt

Planning is already underway for Anthropy23, a presentation at the House of Lords having taken place during March.

As Stuart Cooper stated, “We need to now widen the debate on how we can improve lives as a biopharma force, bringing in a broader spectrum of colleagues and creating a call, or indeed several calls to action; in terms of bringing all people better care wherever they are and with what we already have, but in a more sustainable and healthier environment, locally, nationally, and globally. Our biopharma industry can contribute greatly to this.”

For more information or to register interest in being part of this movement contact Adelphi 

About the interviewee

Stuart CooperStuart is the CEO of Adelphi Group, comprising of ten businesses based across Europe and the USA (with representation also in Asia). Specialising in the healthcare sector, Adelphi provides services across the strategic drug development and launch lifecycle.

Prior to his current role in Adelphi, Stuart was MD and founder of Adelphi International Research, Chairman and founder of Adelphi’s JV health outcomes enterprise Mapi Values (now Adelphi Values) and MD of Adelphi Communications. In addition to his overall responsibilities at Group and business group levels, Stuart consultants with clients running group wide initiatives.

Stuart studied Economics and Politics with a BSc degree from the University of London. This was followed by six years in consumer research, marketing and economics in food and retail industries.

In 1979 Stuart’s career commenced in the pharmaceutical industry at ICI/Stuart Pharmaceuticals (now AstraZeneca), with director responsibilities in global and national research, product management and planning.

Stuart’s professional focus in the last 25 years has been on global pharmaceutical development – success factors, ensuring better healthcare for patients. He participates in debates and presentations at external conferences and internal industry workshops contributing to publications with international groupings.

Stuart is a member of the Leaders Council of Great Britain and the RSA on behalf of Adelphi; and Chairman of Ambassadors of East Cheshire Hospice, widening their impact on healthcare delivery.

Adelphi Group are a leading healthcare player and part of the Omnicom group (also present and supporting Anthropy).

17 April, 2023