PharmExec Blog

Is There a Global Policy Gap on Cancer?

Eli Lilly thinks so, with a new “back to school” pathway on stakeholder engagement

Monday, February 4, is World Cancer Day.  Eli Lilly & Co., one of big Pharma’s biggest, has decided to give the moment its due with the launch of a new policy advocacy initiative to ensure that patients actually benefit from the flood of new oncology treatments now emerging from the industry’s research labs. Called PACE [Patient Access to Cancer care Excellence], the program seeks to build a pro-innovation coalition across the broad cancer community, including, in addition to patient groups, other NGOs in the public health sector, payers, clinicians, academic researchers, regulators and politicians.  It’s not only cross-functional but cross-regional too, with specific campaigns now gearing up in six countries:  the US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

According to Gary Geipel, who directs the program as Global Corporate Affairs Director for Lilly Oncology, PACE aims to create buzz around new kinds of engagement.  “This is not a lobbying effort and it’s not about specific products,” he told PharmExec. “PACE is going to be different in at least two ways. First, we’re taking the long view—trying to engage constructively on big-picture policy hurdles that stand in the way of faster innovation and better patient access to the best care. Second, we’re working across sectors and across geographies because we recognize that real progress against the disease depends on a level of international collaboration around policy changes that we haven’t seen to date.”

PACE consists of three major components.   One is a set of policy research initiatives – developed with guidance from a Global Council that includes prominent leaders from the payer, patient advocacy and academic sectors.  The first of these is an examination of policy barriers to faster oncology innovation and the take up of new treatment.  Other projects underway include a cross-sector, consensus-building  effort to refine proposals for reforms to clinical trial procedures as well as a review of how step therapy contributes to progress in the availability of new and better oncolytics.

The second component is geared to educating cancer patient groups on how to interact and shape clinical decisions about cancer treatments.  For example, PACE is supporting the development of a curriculum called MEET [Medicines Evaluation Educational Training] to school patient advocates in the process of drug development and in the drafting of guidelines and pathways to institutionalize the patient perspective in drug assessment decisions of regulators.

Finally, PACE includes a cancer-policy awareness campaign centered on a series of global public opinion surveys. Called the PACE Cancer Perceptions Index, it involves more than 4,300 people in the six target countries.  It’s a first of a kind effort to understand what the public believes about cancer and expects from all the progress in personalized medicine and other treatment advances.   The first Index survey, released on January 30, found that most polled [73 per cent] believe that new cancer treatments are developed by academics, with big Pharma trailing [at 59 per cent]; that costs of developing a new cancer drug are quite low [around $100 million] compared to reality [in excess of $1 billion]; and that cancer itself is a single disease, with a single cure, whereas the scientific consensus is that cancer is a collection of many diseases [more than 200] with multiple pathways required for treatment and cure.

If anything, these polling results suggest that PACE has its work cut out for it.  “We realize that there will be a lot of skepticism about a pharmaceutical company taking on policy issues,” says Geipel. “But we ask people to give us a chance. Check out what the effort wants to achieve—and more importantly how we’re going about it. Faster progress against cancer and better patient access to care is not a special interest. It’s the ultimate share interest.”

PACE now has an online presence at www.PACENetwork.com.

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