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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Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

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