Phar­ma reps need to bone up on sci­en­tif­ic da­ta and re­al-world ev­i­dence for on­col­o­gy dis­cus­sions: study

On­col­o­gists would like a word with phar­ma com­pa­nies. More than a word, ac­tu­al­ly – they’d like en­tire in-depth con­ver­sa­tions with drug ex­perts and more re­al-world da­ta, please.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Ac­cen­ture’s new study look­ing at on­col­o­gists’ needs through a phar­ma lens. The study comes as FDA ap­proved 16 nov­el can­cer drugs in 2021 – in­clud­ing the first KRAS in­hibitor – along with more than 40 new in­di­ca­tions in on­col­o­gy and hema­tol­ogy. Mean­while, on­col­o­gy tri­als are at record lev­els, up 60% from just five years ago, Ac­cen­ture not­ed in its re­port.

Not sur­pris­ing then that on­col­o­gists – both at aca­d­e­m­ic med­ical cen­ters and in com­mu­ni­ty prac­tices – want sci­en­tif­ic ev­i­dence in­clud­ing spe­cif­ic pa­tient dis­cus­sions, one-on-one di­a­logues about prod­ucts and in­di­ca­tions and re­al-world da­ta and ev­i­dence.

Nine out of 10 on­col­o­gists said talk­ing to phar­ma com­pa­nies about pa­tients’ in­di­vid­ual cas­es will in­flu­ence fu­ture treat­ment de­ci­sions, ver­sus just 43% who said prod­uct dis­cus­sions would.

The take­away from Ac­cen­ture is that even as ground-break­ing can­cer drugs stream in­to the mar­ket, prod­uct push­es alone won’t win on­col­o­gists’ sup­port.

“When I start­ed work­ing as a phar­ma­cist in the in­dus­try 20 years ago, you were just grate­ful you had treat­ments for a col­lec­tive of pa­tients, say in breast can­cer,” An­dré Dahin­den, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, glob­al pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy in Ac­cen­ture’s life sci­ence prac­tice, said.

Now with ad­vanc­ing pre­ci­sion med­i­cine, he added, “phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies can’t just say ‘We have a drug for lung can­cer,’ they have to say, ‘We have a drug for lung can­cer where we have da­ta show­ing this in pa­tients with this char­ac­ter­is­tics, we have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate ben­e­fit.’ So it’s in­vert­ing the re­la­tion­ship from drugs just seek­ing pa­tients to pa­tients seek­ing the right drug.”

Re­al-world da­ta is in­creas­ing­ly im­por­tant in those dis­cus­sions, rank­ing in the top five ser­vices on­col­o­gists want from phar­ma. More than half (51%) said they ex­pect they’ll need more dis­cus­sions of re­al-world da­ta in the fu­ture, while 65% said phar­ma reps should be able to dis­cuss re­al-world da­ta and spe­cif­ic pa­tient sen­ti­ments about treat­ments.

(via Ac­cen­ture Life Sci­ences)

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

“It’s much more so­phis­ti­cat­ed dis­cus­sion which re­quires ei­ther a high­ly qual­i­fied ex­pert com­pa­ny re­source or a com­pa­ny work­ing at arm’s length with an ecosys­tem of ex­perts, whether con­tract­ed or not, to help make sense of the re­la­tion­ship of prod­uct char­ac­ter­is­tics ver­sus pa­tient char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Dahin­den said.

As part of the study, Ac­cen­ture al­so asked on­col­o­gists how they pre­fer to get in­for­ma­tion. The pan­dem­ic pushed com­mu­ni­ca­tions to more dig­i­tal chan­nels and on­col­o­gists are OK with that, but they’d al­so still like to talk to phar­ma rep­re­sen­ta­tives in per­son. Al­though again, they spec­i­fied reps with sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge and da­ta.

Nine­ty per­cent of on­col­o­gists sur­veyed ranked per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions whether in-per­son and vir­tu­al as their pre­ferred way to re­ceive in­for­ma­tion from phar­ma com­pa­nies. Face-to-face and vir­tu­al are both im­por­tant de­pen­dent on the con­text, Dahin­den said.

His ad­vice to phar­ma com­pa­nies is no mat­ter how they plan to de­liv­er in­for­ma­tion, they should be work­ing on get­ting up to speed on the sci­ence.

“If you’re not flu­ent in re­al-world ev­i­dence da­ta gen­er­a­tion and dis­cussing and us­ing it, it’s ur­gent to do so. Now. It’s very hard to imag­ine in pre­ci­sion med­i­cine not be­ing qual­i­fied to talk about all the prop­er­ties of what your med­i­cine can do in re­al life,” he said.

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