Patient engagement is now essential, not only in order to develop new drugs but also to provide insights for medicines that are already approved and on the market - European Medical Journal

Patient engagement is now essential, not only in order to develop new drugs but also to provide insights for medicines that are already approved and on the market

5 Mins
General Healthcare

Pol Vandenbroucke, Chief Medical Officer, Hospital Business Unit, Pfizer

Interviewed by Louise Rogers  @EMG_Louise_


Pol Vandenbroucke holds the position of Chief Medical Officer for Pfizer’s recently established Hospital Business Unit, a position he was promoted to at the start of 2019. We spoke to Vandenbroucke about how he applies his 30+ years of industry experience to his role today, and Medical Affairs’ evolving role in the development of medicines, ahead of his upcoming speech at eyeforpharma, Barcelona 2019


Q: How has your experience with different healthcare markets and demographics shaped your ability to drive medical strategy and lead global MA for Pfizer’s new Hospital BU?

A: What I have learned from my experience in different geographies is how different countries and different regions produce insights and approaches that can be applied worldwide, and then how best to incorporate those insights quickly and efficiently into global strategy. A successful global MA strategy is not built in a vacuum in headquarters but in partnership with our colleagues and customers in all parts of the world.


Q: Could you discuss how Pfizer’s recent restructuring will allow Pfizer’s Hospital BU to be more patient-focussed and facilitate Pfizer’s growth?

Today, Pfizer has what we believe is the best pipeline in our history and several new industry-leading medicines and vaccines that position us well for future growth. This new structure represents a natural evolution of our businesses, better positioning each business to achieve its growth potential. Through our Hospital BU, we are establishing a customer-centric organisation, which will align Pfizer’s key capabilities and resources to meet the unique needs of hospitals and the patients they serve.


Q: Your talk at eyeforpharma, Barcelona, this year will discuss MA’s evolving role in clinical development. At Pfizer, how have you used MA’s strategic position to create a patient-centric development process?

Without doubt, patient centricity is the most important change affecting healthcare and pharma today. Whereas previously we inferred patients’ input through our engagement with the medical community, patient engagement is now essential, not only in order to develop new drugs but also to provide insights for medicines that are already approved and on the market.

At Pfizer, we have made great progress in engaging patients and patient organisations to provide input across the development process. MA is uniquely placed to provide a strategic contribution to this patient-centric approach as the practice of medicine is focussed on the health and well-being of the patient, providing a unique background for medical personnel. MA, also, by its nature already interacts with the different players and organisations that touch the patient: HCPs, regulators, investigators, payers, and publishers.


Q: On that subject, how has the role of MA in the lifecycle of the product changed in recent years, and what major changes do you see in the coming years?

MA has traditionally been a technical function in a pharma company, focussed on providing a bridge between the scientific and clinical data generated by R&D and the communication of that data to HCPs. Specific activities have included input into brand strategy, Phase 3b and 4 studies, field-based medical, publications, medical information, and the review of promotional material.

MA is evolving towards a strategic function that continuously interacts with our customers over the lifecycle of the product, due to:
• The shift in global disease burden from acute to chronic disease, with a more complex and long-term management.
• The change in relative importance of healthcare stakeholders: payers, HTA bodies, patients, and advocacy groups are of increasing importance.
• Technology, which is not only revolutionising the way healthcare is delivered and monitored but also the way we interact with customers and obtain valuable insights.
• The evolution of drug development from a ‘closed-innovation’, company-specific R&D operation to an ‘open-innovation’ R&D ecosystem involving many different external partners with sometimes conflicting organisational missions and philosophies.
• The increasing globalisation of pharma operation.


Q: What lessons can you take from your experience with emerging markets to your role now to, ensure that as many people get access to Pfizer’s products as possible?

One lesson I have learned is that the term ‘emerging markets’ covers a lot of different countries in very different stages of development and with very different healthcare systems and needs. It is therefore imperative to adapt our approach to the needs of specific countries and regions. Another important insight is the role we as pharma can play in supporting the building of research infrastructure and culture in different parts of the world.


Q: You are on the Board of the American Federation for Ageing Research, and Pfizer also has a strong focus on ageing medical innovation. What initiatives have you been involved in that target not only treatment but prevention?

AFAR is an organisation that has for over three decades supported the science of healthier ageing. It has played a major role in advancing the knowledge of ageing and the mechanisms of age-related disease by providing research grants to >4,000 scientists and I am very proud to be a member of the AFAR Board. One AFAR initiative I am particularly interested in is the Targeting Ageing with Metformin (TAME) study, a clinical trial that will test whether the drug metformin, a widely-used treatment for Type 2 diabetes, can delay the onset of age-related diseases and conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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