Turning Your “Pharma Ear” To Better Understand The True Patient Voice

Patient centricity has been a buzz word in the pharmaceutical industry in Japan in the recent past. It is not uncommon to be incorporated in the company’s visions. What exactly is it and how far have we progressed in bringing this concept in to the reality of how the pharmaceutical companies operate in Japan?

As being a practicing physician with experiences in direct patient care, I see the importance of understanding patients’ voices and pleas firsthand. The doctor-patient relationship has been shifted from the era of paternalism to the mandatory requirement of informed consent to shared decision making, along with the modern world of the internet, allowing patients to more easily access to health related information. If patients are not engaged in understanding their conditions and treatment, the adherence to medicines is often rather poor, which leads to unfavorable outcomes for patients. The medicines can be prescribed, but it may not always contribute to a better prognosis of patients, as otherwise would have done.

Pharmaceutical companies develop medicines and provide them to patients, so that their disease can be treated or symptoms can be alleviated. Their business activities are (to be) intended for patients. As the case with clinical practice, those companies providing a solution (medicines) to issues (disease), need to understand patients experiences and their needs firsthand to serve them better. However, patients’ voices or needs were traditionally only collected through the lens of practicing physicians, which limits them to fully comprehend what exactly are the true needs for patients taking medicines they develop and provide.

Here is the real snapshot of what pharmaceutical people replied to the poll questions at Reuters Events Pharma Japan Virtual 2020, where I facilitated discussions with 2 other peer medical doctors, who themselves are cancer survivors.

Q1: Do you have opportunities to directly listen to patients in order to promote patient centricity?

YES, very often 4% (16)

YES, sometimes 27% (103)

NO, not much 36% (141)

NO, not at all 30% (115)

NEITHER 4% (14)

Q2: When you heard direct patients voice and pleas, do you have experiences incorporating their needs into corporate activities in your organization?

YES 43% (128)

NO 29% (87)

NEITHER 28% (83)

Q3: What would be the most important factor in order for pharmaceutical companies to develop and sell medicines that address high patient needs?

Platform to better interact and discuss to understand about patients 45% (160)

Commitment by top leadership 25% (89)

Clarifications on the industry-wide regulations and rules 18% (62)

Sharing the best practice or lessons learnt in the industry 7% (25)

Others 5% (18)

Now, you can see that patient centricity has been a buzz word, but the pharmaceutical industry is still figuring out how to move forward in a right way. There are many great intentions, but at the same time there lays many challenges ahead. The total mindset shift takes time, but at least our journey has began in a right direction.

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Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Reuters Events and Kazuhiro Hatanaka, chair of NPO JPPaC

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