Words by Saskia Pronk
Human behaviour and unhealthy lifestyles are causing individuals to sleepwalk their way into ill health, putting more strain on global health systems than ever before. Taking to the stage on day 2 of Cannes Lions Health, Heather Bresch, CEO, Mylan, ruminates on the current state of healthcare: “Too often, we don’t do a great job of preventing you from getting sick, but real preventiveness, that education and awareness around your health, is what should drive healthcare.” Typically, health services worldwide have acted reactively: diagnosing ill health then delivering appropriate treatment. In the case of acute conditions this proves effective. However, amid the ageing global population and unrelenting presence of chronic, lifestyle disease, a prophylactic approach is needed. Pharmaceutical companies have been asking themselves how they can alleviate this pressure and improve health outcomes while still growing their market. For many, this has required some creative thinking.
Although gathering data was the primary purpose, people aren’t interested in being a statistic, they want to get something out of it
Gwenan White, UK Director of Communications, AbbVie, believes pharma can provide more besides conventional drugs and treatment: “The industry has a lot to offer in terms of health solutions, increasingly surrounding patient outcomes, with a focus on living better as well as living longer – not just benefitting patients, but health systems too.”
One problem that AbbVie wanted to address was that in the UK, 24% of premature mortality is caused by preventable disease, despite people being surrounded with health information. Consequently, they investigated this trend in partnership with 2020health, revealing: “Up to one-third of people don’t seek medical help, even when they have worrying symptoms”, a psychological barrier which they consequently termed ‘FOFO’ or Fear of Finding Out.
Thinking creatively, AbbVie enlisted cross-industry expertise and formed Live:Lab to help tackle old problems in new ways, “Engaging in collaborations way beyond the boundaries we’d [pharma] normally engage in”, remarks White. Through the creation of a game, the collaborators from tech, health, and data industries crowd-sourced lifestyle data to gain deeper understanding of human behaviour and how people engage with health information. One collaborator, Heather Wright, Executive Producer and Head of Partner Content, Aardman Animations, draws upon the creative importance: “Although gathering data was the primary purpose, people aren’t interested in being a statistic, they want to get something out of it.”
The game thus provided participants with a set of quick-fire questions interspersed with little games that they could play – allowing the personification of their FOFO severity. White reveals: “We wanted to share with people why it was important to engage early, and further, if they had worrying symptoms, give them some practical solutions on how to deal with those.”
Aligning with these values, Bresch states: “Staying healthy is what should drive healthcare”, especially through delivering essential therapies to those currently facing illness. When asked what inspires creativity at Mylan, Bresch notes: “What makes it come alive is a passion and a cause. We and our 36,000 employees are all behind making affordable medicine for the worlds 7 billion people.”
But where does profit figure in this? Creative innovation is the answer for Mylan, with 40% of HIV patients on one of their products. “It’s not just about the product, but instead asking how we innovate to get it into the hands of the people who need it”, expands Bresch. Getting the product to the desired location is a challenge in itself but delivering temperature sensitive products to geographic regions where individuals do not have access to fridges is even trickier.
“We innovated heat stable dosage forms that don’t require refrigeration and orally dissolving forms which can be taken without water”, details Bresch. And these appearingly small innovations can turn out to produce life-changing results for patients and healthcare systems, “They have patients become much more compliant on the medicines which they require to keep them healthy.”
Moving forward, although these examples have highlighted the utility of seeking out inspiration outside pharma’s walls, such creative advances merely represent the first waters drawn from the well of creativity – the pharma industry has significantly more to draw on in terms of both prevention and treatment.