By Stefan Oelrich
Member of the Board Management of Bayer AG
Empowering patients in the development of innovative medicines
Patient-centricity is about reminding ourselves that what we do every day makes a difference and has a clear impact on people’s lives. I feel humbled to work in an industry that works tirelessly to bring new treatments to patients around the world. While the purpose of our business is clear, the environment in which we operate and the way in which we bring treatments to our patients is changing.
Our industry is at a turning point where digital technologies, social media and global stakeholder initiatives have opened the door to patients partaking in the drug development process. The advent of digital fuels an ever greater trend of patients taking control of their own health. The smartphone, that we are glued to these days, coupled with smartwatches turn us into walking databases – with our every movement tracked and meticulously detailed. There is a wealth of knowledge and patient insights out there that I believe we have a duty to tap into so we can bring the best innovative treatments to the patients that need them most.
How patients help us to help them
I am proud of how we work together with patients at Bayer. Our Patient Insights & Engagement (PIE) network is a grassroots movement made up of passionate colleagues across a multitude of disciplines. The network has grown substantially in the last two years and it is entirely based on willingness to join, no employee is assigned to work on this initiative. It underscores our vision and desire for patient engagement: to co-create the services, education, clinical research and medical innovations that we provide.
A true celebration of patient involvement and insights is the launch of our new clinical trial finder. Clinical trials are one of the first points of contact between our company and patients who put their faith into our new, potential treatment options. We wanted patients to be actively involved in the design of our online trial finder so that we were sure to create a reliable resource that was easy-to-use, clear and educational. After all, nowadays it is not necessarily the doctor who is the first to inform patients of their eligibility for clinical trials – internet-savvy patients often do much of the research themselves. We partnered with The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) to conduct several rounds of patient testing and the final trial finder is a reflection of real collaboration.
Clinical trials go digital
Once clinical trials are underway, collecting real-life evidence and experience from patients and their doctors is of major significance when optimizing a treatment. We carried out a digital clinical study1 and used everyday digital devices to monitor patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). PAH is an ultimately fatal disease in which patients experience dyspnea limiting their daily physical activities. We partnered with xbird, alumni of our Grants4Apps initiative, in order to use their software to monitor how patients’ daily physical activity changed before and after taking medication. By understanding more about how patients’ lives are affected by their disease, we can ensure that we optimize innovative medication to improve their quality of life. The study is still underway, but I am confident that it will bring us one step closer to being able to better serve our patients’ needs in the future.
When developing new innovative medicines, the patient perspective is more important than ever. At Bayer, we are committed to improving the ways in which we include patients in the research and development of our medicines. Ultimately, they are the experts in living with disease and we need to ensure their needs are met as we make medicines to improve their quality of life.