Takeda promotes empathy for IBD patients with immersive 'In Their Shoes' experience

Takeda's “In Their Shoes" program has launched in the Middle East to increase understanding of and empathy for the disease. (Takeda)

Takeda wants healthcare providers to actually feel what it's like to have inflammatory bowel disease with its immersive "In Their Shoes" experience.

The award-winning program is now expanding to the Middle East, after beginning in Europe, and gives participants a glimpse of what it’s like to live with IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

A downloadable app manages the experience, sending messages, tasks and challenges that must be completed and recorded. For instance, an HCP may get a message saying, “You need to go to the bathroom now,” and, no matter what they are doing, they must go. 

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An “IBD Kit” includes a belt that participants are asked to wear around their waist tight enough to mirror the discomfort of someone with IBD. And then there are role plays. Takeda works with an outside company using trained actors who take on the different roles of doctor, boss or friend, who call the volunteers and involve them in real-life situations patients have faced.

The two-day program aims to give an experience that is as close as possible to the disease's disruptive and painful nature. Takeda asks participants to fully commit to the immersive experience and begins each program with a pre-briefing for the participants.

“We always say to people, 'You need to take this really seriously. We've worked with patients who have told us how this disease impacts their life so over the next two days really give it the respect that it deserves,” Luke Willats, global head of communications for Takeda's gastroenterology franchise, said.

The recent Middle East expansion focused on three countries—the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Those three countries have a high prevalence of IBD, with more than 60,000 patients, Takeda found.

To determine initial interest, Taked began by asking for 15 HCP and journalist volunteers. The response? More than 100 people inside the company and out have since asked to take part in the next wave of the project.

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Takeda is promoting the program on corporate social media and on its website but also has local-level marketing efforts.

"In Their Shoes" began in 2015, and, since then, more than 2,000 people in over 30 countries have participated in the program. Because the initiative is largely digital, Takeda managed to continue running it without much disruption throughout the pandemic.

Takeda plans to continue to expand to more countries and more disease states. It's already developed programs for Crohn’s perianal fistulas and short bowel syndrome intestinal failure and has plans to add celiac disease.

While the experience is unbranded, Takeda's IBD drug Entyvio is the pharma’s No. 1 seller. For its fiscal year ended in March, Entyvio notched sales of 347 billion Japanese yen ($3.24 billion), an increase of 29% year over year.