Sanofi aims for outcomes with brand-new Chief Patient Officer

Last week, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) chalked up a Big Pharma first by hiring a chief design officer. This week, the groundbreaker is Sanofi. The job? Chief Patient Officer.

Sanofi Chief Patient Officer Anne Beal

The French drugmaker ($SNY) brought on Dr. Anne Beal, previously deputy executive director at the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, to take the newly created job. Her pedigree should give us a clue about Sanofi's hopes. Patient outcomes--essentially proof that drugs actually do their jobs--are moving to the top of every pharma executive's to-do list.

So, while Sanofi's announcement emphasized "meeting the needs of patients," the company is also eyeing what comes after that. Helping patients get healthy--with drugs, services, linked-in digital devices, mobile apps, what have you--can save payers money. And that buys Sanofi some clout with the gatekeepers deciding whether to pay for its products. In fact, Sanofi CEO Christopher Viehbacher has said he sees the pharma industry moving away from pay-for-product and toward reimbursements keyed to patient outcomes.

"Interactions with patients are a source of strength for the company," EVP Pascale Witz said in a statement. "Dr. Beal's appointment will help ensure the patient perspective advances our approach to meeting the unmet needs of patients."

While J&J took a page from other industries' playbooks for its new position, the CPO title is obviously something that only applies in healthcare. But the two jobs are similar. Sanofi says Beal will help the company focus on patients' perspectives from early-stage R&D all the way through to market. That's similar to J&J's aim of considering how a product can be designed to address common problems among patients: forgetting to take their meds, for example.

But for Sanofi, the CPO is not just about products but "novel healthcare solutions," the company said. That sounds a lot like the "beyond the pill" strategies much buzzed-about in pharma these days. So, Beal may find herself rolling out new services for Sanofi patients, to complement those the company has already started.

Actually, Sanofi has been among the more active companies in adding services and gadgets to enhance patients' use of particular products. It has looped in diabetes patients to help design mobile apps that would be useful managing their disease, for instance.

And Viehbacher has been vocal about marrying digital technologies with drug treatments to boost their real-world effectiveness. The company has a blood glucose meter that plugs into an iPhone, helping patients test their blood sugar and keep track of trends. Just last week, the company said it had signed up with Vodacom to provide real-time monitoring of diabetes patients in Africa.

- read the Sanofi release

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