Astellas hires first chief patient exec to make 'centricity' more than a buzzword

Astellas US
Astellas underlines importance of patient perspectives with the appointment of its first patient centricity chief. (Astellas)

Patient centricity can seem like just another pharma buzzword, but Astellas is working to put its money where its mouth is.

The Japanese drugmaker tapped its first "centricity"-focused exec—Anthony Yanni, recruited from Sanofi—to helm its efforts to pull in patient perspectives from drug discovery to market.

The new senior vice president of patient centricity comes to Astellas from his post as head of patient insights, solutions and outcomes for Sanofi Medical. While there, he spent eight years creating a system that integrates patient and physician perspective into the discovery and development process.

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A physician and longtime advocate of patient involvement, Yanni said those viewpoints are critical to making long-needed changes to drug discovery, development and delivery.

Why tap a patient-centricity exec now? Astellas has integrated patient views in various ways for years, Yanni said, but formalizing his title and job description showcase its commitment internally and externally.

Pharma is late to the customer-in-the-center strategies that consumer goods companies routinely use. That’s in part because drug development is so focused on the nitty-gritty of science and research that few stopped to ask whether patients needed—or even wanted—a given drug candidate.

Now, though, patients are becoming a “critical component” to drug development success, Yanni said, and drugmakers must go beyond just listening to their input.

“Patient focus, patient engagement are hot topics, but we have to be careful when we use those terms," he said. "Pharma should be engaging patients and partnering with patients and caregivers and physicians to understand their perspective on the disease, but it’s also critical to utilize that information."

At Astellas, he’s working to build frameworks and infrastructure that can support patient engagement across the development continuum, from the earliest stages through to entry and use in the market.

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Patient trust, and by extension caregiver and physician trust, is important in the process, and Astellas plans to show it's acting on their participation.

“Every patient that participates with us should know that their time is not wasted, that whatever is shared is utilized,” he said, adding later, “The key is good science combined with good practices.”