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What does the outlook for payer communications look like in a post-COVID world?

15 Nov 2022

The year 2019 witnessed a catastrophe that shook the entire world. With COVID-19, everything came to a halt. The pandemic forced the industry to disrupt at a pace never seen or known before.

One of the many aspects that saw a huge shift was how stakeholders across the life sciences value chain exchanged valuable information with each other. At the Indegene Digital Summit, industry experts Gergana Zlateva – VP, Value and Access Oncology at Pfizer, Brian Clark - Head US market access rare diseases at Chiesi USA, Jim Ballenger – Principal at Ballenger Rx Consulting, and Jack Mycka – VP, Enterprise Medical Solutions and Emerging Biotech, talked about how things have changed and evolved in the communications between pharmaceutical manufacturers, marketers, and payers in the US over the last few years, especially post-COVID, and what the future looks like.

Key takeaways from the panel discussion:

  • Digital channels for interactions are here to stay. While in-person engagements cannot be replaced completely, the world has come to realize the flexibility and efficiency that comes with virtual interactions. Prior to COVID, the life sciences industry was relatively slower than other industries when it comes to digital transformation. The industry was moving at its own pace with digital, owing to the complex regulatory landscape as well as the potentially high costs of failure. Post-pandemic telehealth and web-based platforms came to the forefront offering information on demand for the target audience to consume when they need it. Since then, there has been a lot of focus on making this content customer-centric and user-friendly, and at the same time manufacturers are figuring out ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Organizations have to ensure that the patient, provider, and payer are equipped with the right information at all times, and also that the patient continues to stay on the product during the entire course of treatment. Digital content allows manufacturers to be more specific and efficient in sharing information in a specific and timely manner.

  • Preapproval Information Exchange (PIE) will enable more payer conversations and faster time to market. The PIE deck by the FDA has come as a respite where it will be possible to share more information with payers way ahead in the drug development process, and will ensure faster availability of drugs to patients. The added advantage of the ease of meeting through digital channels is likely to propel this initiative with an increased number of such PIE discussions between pharma companies and payers.

    PIE will also allow the sponsors to have a line of sight to the pipeline of pharmaceutical manufacturers enabling them to prepare in advance and eventually save time in taking it to the right patients.

  • The role of Real-World Evidence (RWE) in drug approval is gaining momentum. Many of the new medicines that are introduced to the market might not have 3-year-old evidence or huge sample sizes, for example, in rare diseases. The data collected during the clinical trials are mainly used for safety purposes. Though the actual evidence that is collected once the drug enters the market can be a huge wealth of information to assess how the drug is performing outside of a trial setting and help manufacturers, providers, and sponsors draw some conclusions from safety, efficacy, and economic viability standpoint. A close example of this scenario was the development of COVID vaccines during the pandemic. The situation demanded vaccines be made available sooner than it usually takes in a typical drug development process. Real-World Evidence was extensively used for making informed decisions during this time.

The panelists also discussed and debated the role of the Inflation Reduction Act in payer communications. Overall, the session brings a wealth of information about how payer communications have changed over the course of time and what to expect in the near future. The speakers quoted multiple examples from their own experiences.