How patient-centric is the pharma industry? | PDD


June 6 2016
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How patient-centric is the pharma industry?

In this first post of a three-part series, we look at the state of patient-centricity in the pharma industry today.

In recent times, the pharma industry has increasingly adopted the mantra of“patient-centricity” which aims to put the patient at the heart of the company’s operation.

The reality, however, still looks very different. Many are quick to claim patient-centricity but few truly deliver on its premise. This isn’t too dissimilar from consumer-facing companies making claims about how environmentally focussed they are, but a closer inspection will often reveal that these claims aren’t always backed up by a lot of data (many will know this as “greenwashing”).

Earlier this year, I attended Drug Delivery Partnerships in Florida, an intimate pharma event that offers plenty of opportunity for discussion and networking. I didn’t specifically set out to “take the pulse” on patient-centricity but it certainly provided a good forum for doing so. Both in personal and podium discussions, senior stakeholders from pharma giants including Pfizer, GSK, TEVA and Biogen (to name but a few) agreed that while there has been a shift towards more focus on the patient, the industry still has a long way to go to truly deliver on this new promise to market and the patient.

This is actually consistent with what we have seen at PDD across the product and service design engagements we have in pharma. Typically, while there are internal champions who understand the commercial value of being patient-centric, short-term business objectives and the wider culture of big pharma still often make it difficult for companies to embrace these principles holistically.

What does patient-centricity mean?

In simple terms, patient-centricity means placing the patient at the centre of business activity and to consider how decisions about business will affect the patient. This seems far-fetched but there are in fact many aspects of a pharma company’s operation that can be re-imagined to be more aligned with the interest of the patient. They include:

• Drug Discovery
• Formulation
• Drug Delivery Device Development
• Clinical Trial Design
• Marketing
• Communications
• Sales
• Supply-Chain Management.

There is no one-size fits all recipe that applies across the industry and a transition to more patient-centricity will typically need to start with an honest appraisal of the status quo in each company. Cultural transformation experts, Senn Delaney, claim that the following three points are critical to changing a pharma company’s culture towards more patient-centricity:

1. Building culture change into business model innovation;
2. Leading culture change from the top;
3. Understanding the competencies required of patient-centric leaders.

More details can be found in this report.

Who are the companies currently leading on patient-centricity?

Fortunately for patients in need of better therapies and experiences, the vast majority of pharma companies have started a journey towards more patient-centricity. While no hard metrics exist that can track success of such initiatives, annual patient-centricity ranking and awards published by industry organizations nevertheless attempt to provide a degree of feedback to the industry.

In a 2013 survey on patient-centricity by research firm Patient-View, for example, ViiV Healthcare (the GSK & Pfizer joint venture focussed on HIV therapies), Gilead, AbbVie, Menarini and Janssen occupied the top 5 spots. Fast forward to 2016 and a review of the eyeforpharma Barcelona Awards 2016 shows not a single one of these companies won in the “Most Valuable Patient Initiative or Service” category, arguably the award most focussed on patient-centricity. Instead, Sanofi took the top spot, and Merck, Roche, Novartis and TEVA were the remaining nominees. UCB, with its renewed focus on the patient, did particularly well that year with 3 nominations and 1 award across categories.

I would argue that this change over time is very good news for patients. It shows a degree of competition across pharma companies and a dynamic environment aiming to improve the status quo.

It is noteworthy that even generic pharma companies are focusing more on the patient. The behemoth of the category, TEVA, has a number of initiatives in this space, and the CEO of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, India’s largest maker of generic pharmaceuticals, recently shared in an interview that all innovation at his company has to be patient focussed.

Is patient-centricity here to stay?

Patient-centricity in pharma is not a fad – it is decidedly here to stay. The reason for this is very simple: Being patient-centric is good for the bottom line. In a 2015 survey by Pharma Marketing News, an impressive 86{679f20524958f6ae6720ed5d7ced60ac7cd4842c68c4becd3fc4cbe104584030} of pharma executives either agreed or strongly agreed that “a focus on patient-centricity is the best route to future profitability”.


Here at PDD, we take a strong human-centric approach on all our projects across industries including pharma and medical. So it’s great to see that the heavyweights of the pharma industry are serious about this change. Our team will do whatever we can to play our part in this transition and assist our clients and partners on their journey towards better serving patients globally.

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The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
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