As a health economics and medical writing consultant I attend a variety of meetings from the different perspectives of healthcare stakeholders. I have reviewed reports for 3rd party payors to determine relevant insights for their clients, attended pharmaceutical brand launches, developed presentations for advisory council meetings, and identified educational opportunities for healthcare provider teams.
A series of health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) meetings “beyond the pill” presented industry leaders perspectives on expanding services to cater and diversify portfolios to an expanding customer base of "health plans, delivery systems, and governments". A few weeks later I was listening to leading physicians descrbing the overmedicalization of the human experience while attending the Lown Conference.
Imagine a healthcare system that is absolutely remarkable. Patients feel well cared for, and receive the care they need, no more and no less. Imagine a gathering of committed, passionate, and skilled physicians, health care workers and advocates who won’t stop until they make that system real.--Lown Conference
The article, How Pharma Can Offer More than Pills, describes two opposing drivers for the evolving interest of looking beyond the pill. Either, "medicines alone are often not enough for patients to achieve optimal clinical outcomes", or "as pharmaceutical pipelines dry up, beyond-the-pill businesses can be valuable new sources of revenues". This article has been retweeted and reposted but I thought a careful review and read was needed for context.
Beyond the Pill strategies are limited in their success due to the following challenges:
Leadership. Many pharmaceutical companies make the mistake of transitioning outstanding leaders from their sales operations to head their beyond-the-pill businesses. --My comment: A physician leader sitting next to me at an HEOR Beyond The Pill event commented about the pharma executive leading the presentation--"The problem with these industry executives is they used to be sales reps. This guy was such an *sshole as a sales guy that there is no way I am interested in anything he has to say now".
Access to capital. Capital to build and grow diversified new businesses is scarce — particularly in publicly traded companies that have obligations to shareholders. My Comment: The industry seems to be distracted by immediate income potential vs. downstream overall benefits. Think about it--strategies to improve adherence on drugs currently on the market would bring the equivalent revenue as a big block buster drug every year!
Failure to recruit industry outsiders. The talent and skill needed to build and market services and solutions is different from the talent required to market drugs. My comment: You may have noticed that its like shuffling the deck chairs on the titanic--executives move from one company to the next--where is the innovation going to come from?
Form partnerships. When possible, companies should avoid building their own solutions or acquiring any other companies. Partner companies can bring an external perspective on the solutions landscape and provide capabilities that pharma companies would have difficulty building themselves.
Avoid standalone solutions. Any new services or solutions should be supportive of the core pharmaceutical business and not compete with it for capital or management attention. So rather than trying to build beyond-the-pill solutions that are decoupled from their core pharmaceutical products, companies should strive to enhance the effectiveness of their own medicines with tightly linked complementary services, solutions, and tools that encourage patients to be more engaged in their own care and help them adhere to their prescribed therapies.
Integrated clinical trials. Pharma companies should consider integrating beyond-the-pill solutions into clinical trials so that they can eventually sell services and drugs together as a packaged offering. Harvard Business Review
I will leave you with this final statistic: Prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. We do indeed, need to look beyond the pill...
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In a world of "evidence-based" medicine I am a bigger fan of practice-based evidence.
Remember the quote by Upton Sinclair...
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
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