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Never Too Early to Partner

Watching a new drug, device or diagnostic make its way through clinical trials, manufacturers have many things on their minds. Engaging stakeholders may not be one of them. But it should be.

True, the therapy is not yet FDA approved. It’s not yet available to patients. But Stephen Covey was onto something when he famously encouraged us to “Begin with the end in mind.”

The “end” here is patients. They are, after all, the ultimate beneficiaries of therapeutic innovation. So life science companies are well served to follow Covey’s counsel by engaging early, and often, with patient advocates, as well as with other stakeholders, such as medical societies and policymakers. These groups need to understand the therapy’s value proposition, how it will elevate both standard of care and patients’ quality of life.

Engaging early allows innovators to ensure that stakeholders align. It also allows patient advocates and clinicians time to highlight the burden of the disease in question and the benefits of the new therapy.

Once the therapy, device or diagnostic comes to the clinic, these stakeholders will speak with a cohesive voice. They will be dynamic advocates. They also will be empowered to address whatever access barriers arise.

CGRP Inhibitors are a great example of this successful strategy. While the therapies were still in the pipeline, their sponsors began to engage with organizations like the American Headache Society, the National Headache Foundation and The Headache & Migraine Policy Forum. Proactive discussions explored patient preferences in treatment administration, education of the physician community and the access barriers patients might soon face.

The result was impressive. When the FDA approved these life-changing medicines, uptake was rapid. Manufacturers, health care professionals and patient advocates clearly aligned on the medicines’ value. When ICER undertook its cost-effectiveness assessment, stakeholders were ready to share their perspectives. When health plans attempted unreasonable levels of utilization management, stakeholders were equipped to champion access. As a result, today the therapies are reaching patients and changing lives.

The early investment in stakeholder engagement is yielding its desired return.

The success of an innovative therapy ultimately depends upon clinicians and patients. Engaging with the stakeholder community should be a priority for innovators – long before a product comes to market.

Woodberry Associates is a strategy-driven public affairs firm that guides nonprofit and for-profit entities in making the most of stakeholder engagement. Our team of experienced professionals crafts smart, customized plans for forward-looking clients.