Catherine Taylor, Vice President, Medical Affairs EMEA, Therapeutic Area Strategy at Janssen, discusses the importance of systems innovation across the healthcare system to realize the full value of medicines.
Medicines and vaccines are among the most powerful interventions that can help improve the quality of life of people around the world. As a doctor trained in oncology and having practiced in the UK NHS for 10 years, I have seen the benefits first hand as patients live longer, symptom free and can return to work.
Beyond that, there are positive impacts for wider society, health systems and economies. It is therefore essential that we continue to streamline the process of development, regulation and access, so that patients have faster access to better and safer medicines.
Cultivate an environment conducive to innovation
To achieve this, it will be essential to maintain an environment conducive to innovation. Systemic innovation is not limited to the discovery of new molecules; it is a state of mind that we must continue to apply at all levels. We must be able to think outside the box and find new interventions and delivery methods that lead to better and more sustainable standards of medical care.
Because, despite the great improvements made across the industry in recent years to accelerate innovative development, we still face many challenges. Innovative ‘next generation’ drugs face a range of hurdles such as increasing development costs, regulatory challenges and delays, and longer and more complex clinical trials. And all this fuels the debate: are drugs a cost or an investment?
The answer to this question comes down to our definition of value. Value-based healthcare is a delivery model in which providers are rewarded based on the value and difference they make to patients’ lives, rather than on the volume of treatments provided.
A few months ago, I spoke with Professor Joaquin Mateo, Chair of ESMO’s Translational Research and Precision Medicine Working Group. We agreed that one of the key future directions for drug innovation lies in treating patients with drugs specifically targeted to the molecular signature of their disease. The ideal state is that one day patients only receive (and the health care system only provides) drugs that will improve their condition. Although we have made great progress for some diseases, we are not there yet and we need to ensure that targeted investment in research continues to deliver the value that patients truly deserve.
The role of innovation in value-based healthcare
Delivering value to patients does not begin and end in our R&D labs; actions can be implemented at all stages of the drug development life cycle to encourage and adopt an environment conducive to innovation.
For example, alongside stable, transparent and long-term research policies or plans, incentives can encourage innovation by those who are willing to take risks and tackle areas where the needs of patients are not satisfied. Effective intellectual property systems are also essential to stimulate research and sustainable innovation for the future.
And strong collaboration of everyone involved in health research is another key element of a value-based approach to health care. From patients, patient associations, pharmaceutical companies and academia to regulators, public institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), all key stakeholders must come together to help the patients who need it most. new drugs to access them as quickly as possible.
The European Commission Pharmaceutical strategy for Europe, adopted in November 2020, describes a series of concrete actions to guarantee the accessibility, availability and affordability of medicines. The strategy also highlights the importance of learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to improve crisis preparedness and response mechanisms, and thus help make the health sector more prepared and resilient.
How can innovation in Medical Affairs generate value?
Medical Affairs is at the forefront of innovation in our industry, making it an exciting and constantly evolving field in which to work. From generating innovative evidence to accelerating the adoption of medical treatments and transforming medical engagement, our teams play a huge role in helping deliver much-needed treatments to patients around the world.
According to the EFPIA, more than 7,000 drugs are currently in development worldwide. In this context, innovative treatments such as CAR-T therapy and retinal gene therapy are emerging as ways to target rare diseases, multiple indications and underserved populations. These therapies present significant challenges to our current regulatory and access processes, but they are challenges that we must overcome if we are to benefit patients.
The key, of course, is to always start with the end goal in mind – what change do we want to bring to patients? So, alongside the development and delivery of the treatment itself, it is also important to provide comprehensive medical education and explore new pathways and delivery systems for patients. This way everyone understands the value of the treatment and the path to getting it to the right patients at the right time is clear.
Data will always be at the heart of everything we do, as it has the power to communicate the potential of a new treatment to change a person’s life. If we are to move towards a value-based healthcare system, we must use the power of clinical trial data and real-world evidence to produce the best possible data set for regulatory submissions. Effective data analysis can lead to faster access and better patient outcomes. And integrating the voice of the patient into our company’s innovation is crucial – we need the unique perspectives and experiences of patients to focus on the solutions that will have the greatest impact on their lives.
At Janssen, we strive to improve access to our innovative medicines and vaccines and to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients around the world. Where I think medical affairs can move the needle is as a scientific bridge, engaging with key stakeholders such as clinicians, researchers, payers, policymakers, and regulators. Our role is to help translate the data and powerfully articulate the demonstrated medical value of a drug, and to collaboratively explore how the value of that drug could be enhanced. Ultimately, we want to ensure that the patients who could benefit most from our treatments can receive them – that’s what drives our Medical Affairs purpose.
About the Author
Dr. Catherine Taylor is Vice President, Medical Affairs, Therapeutic Area Strategy in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Taylor is Medical Affairs Manager for all areas of Janssen’s disease in EMEA, with a focus on innovation, evidence generation and innovative treatments. Prior to this role, Dr. Taylor worked in the Middle East as Regional Medical Director, EMEA Emerging Markets for Janssen-Cilag Middle East Ltd.
Between 2016 and 2019, she was the therapeutic area manager of hematology medical affairs for Janssen Oncology in the EMEA region. Dr Taylor holds an MD from King’s College London and is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal College of Physicians. Before joining the pharmaceutical industry, she trained and practiced in clinical oncology in London for 7 years. She also holds a degree in Pharmaceutical Medicine and completed her specialty training in Pharmaceutical Medicine in the UK. Prior to joining Janssen in 2015, she held positions in the UK, EMEA regional and global medical affairs at Pfizer and Astellas.