Have we pushed pharma too far away?

I must confess, the idea of a ‘breakfast roundtable’ discussion is about as appealing to me as hoovering.

Come to think of it the two activities are not unrelated. For roundtables are really an opportunity for the host to hoover up lots of comments and ideas.

My sympathy always goes to the poor person who has to write the ‘note’ of the meeting.

By the time I had got to yesterday’s ABPI breakfast roundtable on the subject of innovation I was clearly delusional (after two days at the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) meeting you’d be able to self diagnose too!).

Such was my hunger I had convinced myself that the shiny black rectangular thing in front of me was a hot plate just waiting for a cooked breakfast. There isn’t an adjective good enough to describe the disappointment that came across me as, half-an-hour later,  I realised it was a closed laptop.

Actually, yesterday’s discussion was rather good. At least it didn’t turn into the usual pharma whinge about how terrible their lot is and how they are going to leave home if they don’t get their way. My sense is that this has something to do with the better leadership of the industry that ABPI is now showing – as exemplified by their chairing yesterday. And I’m not just saying that because of the free, corrugated croissant.

Anyway, there was a moment that brought me up short during yesterday’s discussion. A number of us had been arguing that, as industry radically rethinks itself, patient insight and experience must be a key driver to what they do. For patients it’s not all about the latest ‘treatment’ but about innovation across a broader span of needs including those that heavily impact quality of life.

To which the response was that industry was now more sensitive and nervous than ever before about getting close to patients; this because of media reporting, changes to the ABPI Code of Practice etc which have tightened the rules on the relationship between companies, patients and patient groups.

It’s an interesting point and I’d be interested to know what others think.

Have we pushed pharma too far away? In the drive to curtail bad practice have we stopped the development of good models of co-production? Is it now more difficult to forge a relationship? Does it matter? Is an arms-length relationship a good or bad thing?


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