Lockdown 3: Why patients cannot afford another pause in pharma-sponsored support

As we enter into a third lockdown, the pivotal role of pharma in developing vaccines that will help us return to a semblance of normality has never been more clear to the general public.

But, if industry is to cement its position as a true partner in our healthcare system, it must continue to support patients and patient groups in other ways too.

Just like pharma, patient groups have played a vital role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many became the first port of call for chronically-ill patients who saw their normal access to healthcare services temporarily halted.

But at a time when there has been unprecedented demand for their services, patient group finances have dropped off a cliff. According to a survey by the umbrella patient organization National Voices, a third of patient groups participating in their research predicted a 40% drop in fundraising income in the period June 2020 to June 2021, and a further third anticipated a 25% drop.

Patient communities facing financial hardship

A fall in public fundraising has been a significant part of the issue for patient groups, but many who rely on some financial support from pharma also reported a reduction in this revenue stream.

A global survey of 1,720 patient groups by Patient View, conducted after the first lockdown in 2020, reported that pharma companies had paused many of their normal patient-related activities during the pandemic. In fact, almost 40% stated that pharma had “No impact”, or even a “Negative impact”, in providing patients with services beyond the manufacture of prescription medicines.

In this latest lockdown, it is vital that pharma does not press pause again. At a time when healthcare services are likely stretched beyond anything experienced during the first lockdown, patients will be more reliant than ever on other healthcare players to provide the support they need.

Pharma must continue to support beyond-the-medicine

Patient groups will step up to the plate, but as a healthcare partner, pharma has an important role to play in providing resources and expertise.

There is much important work to be done. Health services have undergone unprecedented transformation during the pandemic with little or no patient involvement, despite this practice now being widely recognised as fundamental.

There have been many reports about the benefits of remote consultations, for example. However, due consideration must also be given to patient concerns about this virtual format and how the experience may be improved for those who find it sub-optimal.

Pharma and patient groups can collaborate to co-design interventions that improve the patient experience of these new services.

Four steps for pharma in collaboration with patient groups

  • Conduct survey / literature review to assess state of play about the impact of COVID-19 in your priority therapeutic area
  • Form panel of patients and patient group representative to map patient experience and identify priority pain points
  • Co-design intervention with panel to improve patient experience during and after the pandemic
  • Pilot intervention with a local healthcare service and share learnings to support further roll out

Get in touch if you would like to discuss how pharma can continue to collaborate with and add value to patients and patient groups during the pandemic. Contact stephen.ofarrell@auroracomms.com.

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