In an effort to quantify the value of medicines, the Pfizer pharmaceutical company launched a Value of Medicines campaign in October 2013 on the Pfizer website and Twitter. The campaign features a series of peer reviewed papers that detail the societal and economic value provided by medicines across various disease areas, as well as real stories from patients who have benefited from medicines. NACDS.org caught up with Pfizer Vice President of External Medical Affairs Jack Watters to discuss the campaign and its logical dovetail with pharmacies which, as the face of neighborhood healthcare, help patients every day to use innovative medicines to live life to the fullest.
Q: What do you see as the role of pharmacists in promoting medications and, in particular, innovative medications?
A: The pharmacist’s role cannot be underestimated. For example, if you ask a doctor what our pills look like, they might not be able to tell you. But pharmacists and nurses will certainly be able to tell you what they look like because they are the ones who handle them. They are the ones who are at the frontline with the patient.
Everyone has an important role to play in healthcare delivery, but the pharmacist truly is the one who is not only dispensing the medicine, but also offering advice. The pharmacist has an incredible role in terms of advising the patient and reassuring the patient, particularly if it’s a change in medication, or if it’s a new medication. There is a great opportunity for the patient to ask questions, and the pharmacist, as a highly trained healthcare professional, is in a great place to help the patient.
Q: You’re using both peer-reviewed studies and patient stories to convey your campaign’s message. Why is it important to hear from patients?
A: The work of our development in medicine is designed to have improved patient outcomes. The best way to know what people think of your medicine is to ask them, and to have that direct feedback—to hear their stories—is an extremely impactful way of understanding how a medication may have changed someone’s life.
Q: Do you see potential in this campaign for a pharmacy industry-wide campaign?
A: If the pharmacy industry sees this campaign as enabling them to do their job even better—to get the message to the right people, to be able to make important suggestions—then it seems as though a pharmacy-wide campaign would be an extremely logical step for this.
Q: A key component of the campaign is to highlight how pharmaceutical innovations provide value. What do you want legislators, in particular, to take away from this messaging?
A: We are constantly trying to develop new technologies and new medications. And while that is an expensive business, it is an investment worth making because what you are going to see is improved patient outcomes. Everyone focuses on the cost of acquisition, but our goal should be that the higher cost today will result in much lower costs further down the road.
One of the key roles that pharmacists play is in helping improve adherence with patients. One of the enormous costs is when prescriptions are filled and the insurance companies are charged, but the patient does not take the medicine. That is a huge gap in the system, and it is an extremely important role that the pharmacist can play.
If legislators could recognize that the pharmaceutical industry is focusing its investments with the ultimate goal of improving the health of citizens, then I believe that with economic development and improved health there will be increased prosperity. There is a real opportunity for partnership here and for legislators to recognize this, but they need to take a long-term view. The problem with politics and medicine is that diseases do not respect electoral cycles. But the pharmacist recognizes that.
Q: This is a timely campaign given the recent changes brought on the Affordable Care Act. Do you see your messaging on reducing healthcare costs correlating with the new provisions in the healthcare law?
A: I think it correlates very well with the new law. A lot of the key aspects of the new law focus on prevention, because if you can prevent or delay disease, then the healthier younger people will become healthier older people.
Q: What is the overarching goal of this campaign?
A: People need to have the information to use the right medicines at the right time, so there is a strong informational element here to provide concise, informative and balanced information. People want health, well-being and dignity. This campaign goes a long way in delivering that, not only to patients, but people like pharmacists who are faced with patients who have often been given a new diagnosis, or are trying to deal with a chronic disease. Ultimately this is a campaign about information and access.