April 23, 2013
Building Effective Partnerships for Optimal Patient Care
This month’s meeting took on a different format with a panel of esteemed members who were present to discuss partnerships between patient groups, charitable sectors and the pharma industry. The evening’s moderator was Karen M. Chow, who is responsible for National Stakeholder Relations at Novartis. Karen introduced one of the panel members, Deirdre Freiheit, the Executive Director of the Health Charities Coalition of Canada, who provided the audience with an overview of the charitable and non-profit health sector in Canada. A second panellist, Shannon MacDonald, the Vice president of Public affairs and partnerships at Rx&D, then briefly spoke about how the pharma industry can better partner with health charities. She pointed out that stakeholder organizations value the work and the assistance that pharma offers them more than the funds it provides, in terms of information, opportunities and speakers.
Karen kicked off the panel discussion by asking for their perspectives on why they work with pharma and what partnership means to them. Rob Oliphant, the President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada, was the first to respond by saying that his charity and its community need pharma because they are totally dependent on drugs and on new drug development. He and his charity have a vested interest in access to medication and in fostering an environment for new drugs to come, so he has shared interests with the pharma industry. Aldo Del Col, the Executive Director of Myeloma Canada, added that a member of the pharma industry provided the seed money that helped him start his national organization and the industry has partnered with his charity to help it grow. In addition, pharma has provided medication that has changed his life, as he has myeloma. Paul Shay, the Executive Director of The Kidney Foundation of Canada, provided an additional comment, saying that his charity needs money and expertise from pharma in order to disseminate the messages of his organization.
The second question for the panel was whether they proactively search out opportunity or if they take a more reactive approach with pharma. Aldo Del Col said that he takes a global approach where he engages pharma at every level, including marketing, medical and government relations. He felt that it was important to form relationships with different levels of the pharma company in order to build a true business partnership. Paul Shay agreed that it’s all about building relationships and finding the right “fit” with companies to determine what can be accomplished together. Rob Oliphant commented that he finds that when he deals with pharma companies there is a lot of “pitching out” of ideas on both sides in order to find projects that are of common interest to both.
Karen then questioned the panel about what issues are important to them and which are non-negotiable when dealing with pharma. Paul Shay responded first by saying that his organization doesn’t advocate for the coverage of a particular drug, but it does support access for everyone so that patients and healthcare professionals can choose the most appropriate treatment. Rob Oliphant said that The Asthma Society does do advocacy programs around particular drugs, but it is not able to take funding from pharma for these. He mentioned that pharma companies should work with his organization when they are producing promotional materials. He emphasized this is because he knows what types of materials and approaches will work. He even said that he could help companies “blind test” a piece by obtaining some opinions from his patient network in order to make a more valuable promotional tool. Aldo Del Col added to Rob’s comment by saying that he has had great success producing patient information booklets with pharma. He has done this by assuring that there is actual patient input into the development of the tool which makes it more effective.
The next question from Karen was about the patient access submission process and how pharma can help their organizations with it. The panels all felt that the best way pharma could help with the process was through the transmission of knowledge, either about their drugs or the submission process, and by allowing enough time for the organizations to complete the process. On this same note, Karen asked how organizations could work with pharma in situations when a province issues a “do not list” decision for a particular drug. Aldo Del Col said that again, it’s a question of obtaining guidance from pharma in order to understand how to develop the best fight. Rob Oliphant echoed this sentiment, saying that his organization will fight for any patient to get any drug if they need it and that he’s in the “game together” with pharma on this issue.
The panel was then asked for their perspective on recent changes in governance and compliance process and procedures in terms of how pharma interacts with their organizations. Aldo Del Col said that he would like to see best practices development that allows for dialogue between the parties instead of electronic communications. Paul Shay expressed his frustration with having US legal teams change agreements that have been developed and agreed upon with Canadian pharma companies. He implored the audience to try to educate their US counterparts about their Canadian partnerships.
The last question of the night was about loss of exclusivity (LoE). Karen asked the panel what counsel they would offer to pharma during the LoE process and how best to address their partnerships when LoE is on the horizon. Paul Shay stated that when he’s experienced LoE with companies, he found that there were abrupt stops to great collaborations. One way he suggested to avoid this was to introduce organizations to other areas in pharma companies where new partnerships could be made to meet the interests of both parties. Shannon MacDonald agreed that there is nothing more frustrating to thinking that you’re making a program that’s going to last for years and then having it cut short. She encouraged companies to communicate about LoE and potential loss of funds for programs as early as possible in the process. Rob Oliphant also reminded the audience that organizations like his play an important role in advocating for the intellectual property of pharma companies. It’s in their best interests to maintain exclusivity in order to allow pharma companies the ability to develop new drugs. His final comment was one that nicely summarized the theme of the evening’s discussions: the partnership between organizations and pharma companies is one that that we want to protect.