Words by Louise Rogers.
Quality over quantity is a concept commonly associated with food, used to justify buying that palm-size cut of premium rib-eye, where the packaging relays how the beef was sourced from a grass-fed cow, allowed to roam free in the fields, and was not routinely subjected to various antibiotics. We pay that bit more for a bit less because the cow’s story adds value. In recent years, pharma has attempted to harness this approach, and with value being the new volume, paying for just a drug doesn’t quite ‘foot the pill’ anymore. “Doctors are asking: why should I prescribe this? Payers: why should I pay for this? And Regulators: why should I approve this?” says Eduardo Elorz, Oncology Global Medical Affairs Director, Eli Lilly (2015–May 2018). As humans, we are influenced by the memorable, so pharma needs to deliver the memorable and tell the unique story of their products.
The dexterity to extend multiple arms and accompany the product, physician, and patient throughout the entire lifecycle means that MA are uniquely positioned. “We can gather useful information, build that into knowledge, and then share a common story with the rest of our cross-functional colleagues”, says Ian Greenway, MA Director, Complete HealthVizion. So how can MA best seize their role and become the Charles Dickens of healthcare?
“We can gather useful information, build that into knowledge, and then share a common story with the rest of our cross-functional colleagues”
Firstly, all good stories contain good content. We live in a data driven world; data sets the pharmaceutical scene and is needed to lay the foundations and ensure scientific integrity. “Participate in meetings with the clinical teams and gather data and insight. Then, understand that data so that you can share it with your regulatory and commercial colleagues”, says Elorz. “You need to be asking the right questions to gain that deep insight”, adds Greenway. “Be inquisitive with your healthcare providers so that you get a good situational analysis and really understand your target product profile.”
Indeed, research undertaken by Medscape illustrates that physicians want to receive more than just ‘data dumps’; they want to understand why the information is important to both them and the patient. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the endpoints that matter most to patients when gathering data. Every story needs a good ending, and the only suitable ending for the tale woven by MA is a better patient outcome. However, as discussed at eyeforpharma, Barcelona, the industry needs to change direction from viewing survival as the last word. Patients don’t want survival to title their final chapter; they want to write new ones, which improve their quality of life.
“Be inquisitive with your healthcare providers so that you get a good situational analysis and really understand your target product profile”
After content is gathered, a compelling narrative is formed when the data and patient anecdotes are aligned and told in a way that creates an emotional connection with the customer. “It’s about making that correlation back to the impact that pharma can have on a life”, explains Sital Kotecha, Medical Strategy Director, Europe, Veeva Systems.
To quote the Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard: “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” Data will not reach those intended if communicated in the wrong way. Fortunately, MA are perfectly positioned to draw together the fragments of information from various stakeholders and shape them into a tale that will sell itself.