“Customer-centricity” has become so widely used in business that in many cases, the term has regressed into nothing more than a clever marketing spin.
But when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, the ultimate end-users, or “customers,” are patients seeking treatments, which elevates the importance of the term far beyond simple branding. As such, many pharma companies have integrated a patient-centric approach into their core values, especially in today’s era of targeted therapies and personalized medicines.
The traditional business model for contract manufacturers in the pharma space is also set up to serve the customer, however, in this case, the customer is the pharma company that outsources services. For years, contract manufacturers have prided themselves in providing excellent customer service to pharma companies, firmly embedding themselves as indispensable partners in the manufacturing process.
However, contract development and manufacturing organization Piramal Pharma Solutions (PPS) has decided to shift the spotlight back where it belongs — directly on patients. Through its focus on patient-centricity, PPS is leading the way towards a new cultural and organizational mindset within the contract manufacturing space — and beyond.
With multiple definitions of patient-centricity swirling throughout the industry, AstraZeneca endeavored to officially define the term. In 2017, after extensive engagement with patients, the drugmaker published what it deemed “the first collaborative definition of patient-centricity” in The British Medical Journal.
The established definition, “Putting the patient first in an open and sustained engagement of the patient to respectfully and compassionately achieve the best experience and outcome for that person and their family,” was created for pharma companies to adopt and use as a reference point.
AstraZeneca emphasized the importance of ensuring that “the guiding principles of patient-centricity are defined by patients for patients” if true patient-centricity is to be achieved.
Piramal Pharma Solutions initiatives
Inspired by its pharma clients, PPS made the decision to take its already strong focus on customer service to the patient level.
“We are essentially redefining customer centricity to emphasize the importance of patient centricity,” says John Fowler, chief operation officer, Piramal Pharma Solutions. “If you elevate the dialogue to the patient level, it takes on a different meaning.”
As part of its new ethos, the global CDMO appointed its chief commercial officer, Stuart Needleman, to a newly created role of chief patient-centricity officer.
Under Needleman’s guidance, PPS is introducing Patient Awareness Councils across its global sites in North America, Europe and Asia. The councils are made up of executives and employees that act as patient advocates and ambassadors of patient-centricity. They are in charge of exploring the impact that development and commercialization decisions have on patients.
“If you put the patient at the center of the universe it changes how a company operates internally,” says Needleman.
The CDMO hosts town halls where drug companies can come in and talk to PPS employees about the products being contracted and the patients they treat. Through collaboration with its pharma customers, patients also are brought into PPS facilities to share their personal stories about the medications being manufactured.
“Employees share a common goal with the customer now — serving patients,” says Fowler.
Doing the right thing
A patient-centric approach is about more than just delivering products to patients and the mindset has had broader implications for the industry as a whole. PPS stresses the importance of backing up patient-centric claims with genuine commitments to doing the right thing for patients — even if it means manufacturing small, low-profit batches of orphan drugs or extra batches during a time of shortage.
“Patient-centricity is a motivational force for employees to do the right thing,” says Fowler. “It’s not about a paycheck, it’s about helping a patient survive.