A Groundbreaking Effort to Bring the Patient Voice into All We Do

Patient Expert Engagement Resource (PEER) amplifies patient voices across Bristol Myers Squibb

September 14, 2020
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hen asked why it is critical to bring the patient voice into drug discovery and development, Andrea Vassalotti, director, partnerships and programmes at World Heart Federation, cited a sobering statistic: Research has shown that only half to two-thirds of cardiovascular patients actually take medication in the way it was prescribed by their physician.

“Some medications can cause side effects that prevent patients from following their prescribed regimen,” said Vassalotti. “These insights often motivate industry to advance therapeutic options that don’t cause the same concerns, which can have a positive influence on adherence. It’s essential for the industry to see beyond just clinical data to explore the true impact medications have on patient quality of life.”

Weaving the patient perspective into the development and commercialization of medicines has become increasingly important industry-wide, particularly at Bristol Myers Squibb. For the past year, the company has worked closely with expert patient advocates to define and implement an innovative new process spanning all markets and therapeutic areas: Patient Expert Engagement Resource, or PEER. 

PEER ensures that the patient perspective is heard and considered at every step of the drug discovery and development process – one of the first times this kind of all-encompassing approach has been implemented at a biopharmaceutical company. A major action already implemented through PEER requires that all pivotal trial protocols include expert patient advocate engagement prior to internal sign-off.

“We have to understand the impact that our studies have on the lives of the patients and on the overall healthcare infrastructure as we look at our inclusion and exclusion criteria, schedule of events and study design,” said Samit Hirawat, chief medical officer, global drug development. “With PEER’s launch, we’re seeking patient insights as we develop protocols for clinical studies, and I believe that is going to make a big difference for the lives of the patients participating in clinical trials and beyond.”

This new approach marks an evolution of the company’s longstanding commitment to patient centricity. Gathering insights from people who are affected by the diseases we are researching is key to Bristol Myers Squibb’s vision to transform patients’ lives through science. 

“I’ve worked in multiple myeloma for a number of years, but it was only when I first sat in on some patient research that I began to understand the hope that comes with patients being in remission – and the anxiety they have when relapse could be just around the corner,” said Nadim Ahmed, EVP and president, hematology.

PEER fills a need for more systematic and seamless engagement of expert patient advocates. This formalized approach builds on and integrates efforts already underway across the organization to bring patient perspectives into the company’s work. 

“It’s critical to incorporate patient perspectives into all our clinical trials, including those in early development,” said Rupert Vessey, EVP and President, research and early development. “By bringing in these insights, we’re making sure patients know that we see them, we hear them and we support them.”

Patient insights can also inform conversations with regulatory agencies and health authorities across therapeutic areas. 

“Working hand in hand with expert patient advocates is crucial because it equips us to drive forward policy issues that directly impact how patients access medicines,” said Chris Boerner, EVP, chief commercialization officer. “By continually incorporating the patient voice across commercialization, we gain insights that better enable us to address patient needs today and into the future.”

Now more than ever, it is critical that patients’ voices are heard loud and clear. PEER marks an exciting new way of working – and will take each person’s support to implement across Bristol Myers Squibb. 

“I'm so excited about our new PEER resource, which makes it easy to understand and leverage the patient experience,” said Kathryn Metcalfe, EVP, corporate affairs. “At the end of the day, it's all about the patients we serve.”