By Kelvin Tan, Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer at Jazz Pharmaceuticals
One of the most consequential shifts I’ve seen during 20 years in the biopharmaceutical industry is happening right now: A combined focus on patient-centricity and health equity is changing how companies approach end-to-end drug development and how we reach patients who’ve historically been left behind.
As the child of immigrant parents, who has lived in many countries and experienced different cultures, I have come to understand and witness first-hand some of the challenges that minority communities face in receiving quality healthcare because of a myriad of barriers including language, access to information and cultural differences. As a practicing physician for 10 years in the UK’s National Health Service, I’ve also witnessed how the social determinants of health can dramatically impact patient outcomes, simply due to circumstances beyond an individual’s control.
As chief medical officer for Jazz Pharmaceuticals, I’m proud to have our commitment focused on two key areas – patient-centricity and heath equity – as we commit considerable time and resources as we aspire to improve health literacy and incorporate the patient voice into every aspect of our R&D across oncology and neuroscience.
PATIENT-CENTERED DRUG DEVELOPMENT
My role at Jazz is to make sure the patient voice is heard loud and clear throughout our R&D process, starting with early drug discovery through to when our medicines are on the market reaching larger populations in real-world settings. Jazz has a longstanding commitment to developing life-changing medicines for people affected by serious diseases for which current therapies are lacking. This begins with listening to patients to understand and reflect their needs in our R&D priorities and throughout all stages of the drug development lifecycle.
Dialogue leads to actionable insights in so many areas that matter to patients – from selecting the right study endpoints and utilizing tools that measure the correct outcomes, to developing medicines that address the symptoms and side effects that matter most and designing clinical studies that consider patient burden and are inclusive of all patient populations we aim to serve. Every day, we strive to work hand in hand with patients and advocacy groups to develop authentic, credible, long-standing partnerships.
BETTER HEALTH LITERACY CAN IMPROVE OUTCOMES
Historically, it was the job of biopharmaceutical companies to innovate and manufacture drugs, and the responsibility of healthcare providers to use these tools to maximize patient outcomes.
But as biomedicine has matured and treatment options have grown, so, too, has the responsibility of innovators to help patients and physicians navigate this complex environment and knock down barriers to equitable, accessible care.
Take lung cancer, for example. People of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to white Americans because they are less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment, and more likely to not receive any treatment, according to the American Lung Association’s 2021 State of Lung Cancer report.1
To address the gaps in patient care, Jazz introduced Nothing Small About It – an online program that was built from the ground up with patients, caregivers and advocacy organizations to assist people living with small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). The platform arms people with unintimidating information and resources to support them through a diagnosis, news of progression and other challenges along the way, in addition to offering empathy and inspiration to those experiencing feelings of stigma, fear or hopelessness. It was developed to meet people exactly where they are in their individual cancer journeys to help patients choose a treatment plan and maintain emotional and physical well-being during treatment.
ADDRESSING DISPARITIES IN CANCER CARE
Another way Jazz is working to advance health literacy and health equity is through our collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer, a catalyst program to accelerate cancer research in areas of significant need. One of the key goals of this initiative is to learn how we can improve access to cancer therapies for people from underserved communities.
An integral part of this effort involves understanding the attitudes and perspectives of cancer patients and their caregivers when it comes to their experiences with SCLC clinical trials. Our goal is to drive actionable insights on how we can increase participation and access to potentially life-extending therapies for patients in communities that have been historically underrepresented.
Talking to patients throughout our R&D process, hearing about their unmet needs, and turning their insights into actions is what drives our work at Jazz. It gives us hope that we will realize our expanded vision to bring greater hope and healing to those who have historically faced difficulties in accessing the care they need.
- State of lung cancer: Racial and ethnic disparities. State of Lung Cancer | Racial and Ethnic Disparities | American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/research/state-of-lung-cancer/racial-and-ethnic-disparities. Published November 16, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2022.