Innovation and Access: Pushing Boundaries to Deliver Value to Patients

By Percival Barretto-Ko, President Astellas Americas

We’re approaching the end of a decade in which millions of lives have been forever changed by science-based medicine. In the U.S., the death rate from cancer has been declining. Treating the underlying cause of rare genetic diseases, once an idea, is now a practice. As we start to look ahead to the next decade, the opportunities to turn highly complex science into value for patients are endless.

When we consider the breadth of potentially groundbreaking therapies in Astellas’ pipeline – from regenerative medicine to immuno-oncology to a possible treatment for menopause-related vasomotor symptoms (VMS) – we are helping to set the tone for how medical science will contribute to the lives of patients around the world. 

Over a decade ago, I joined Astellas because of the mindset and values upon which our company was built. Central to who we are is a singular, tenacious and unwavering focus on addressing the unmet needs of patients. We have embraced the challenge to follow the science wherever it takes us.

I’m confident that 2019 will be a pivotal year for the industry writ-large, building on exciting milestones in 2018. However, to realize our goals, it is critical that we remain focused on some core principles.

Creating and maximizing value.

At Astellas, we constantly strive to understand what patients value – and we work every day to meet or exceed it. This mentality, which prevails throughout every action we take, can serve as an important catalyst for change.

For example, last year we earned Food and Drug Administration approval of XOSPATA® for adult patients who have relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with a mutation called FLT3. This treatment is helping to advance the science and deliver value to patients and their physicians.

As we were preparing to bring XOSPATA to market, we leveraged our new patient support administrator’s technology to create a novel and more efficient means for Astellas to assist patients with quickly accessing this critical medication. Some of these enhancements include e-prescribing, e-benefits verification and voice attestation for patient signatures. In addition, recognizing the many hurdles in a patient’s journey, we developed a new patient support offering to connect patients and their caregivers to available local and national programs that may provide logistical, emotional and informational support and resources.

Looking at other areas of our business, we recently evolved our approach to clinical trials, with an eye to improving the patient experience. We redesigned our informed consent forms to make them easier to understand. We also streamlined our call center experience to simplify the process for trial participants.

Value is a two-way street – we are always analyzing data and our processes to help advance innovation and improve the patient experience. As we continue our efforts in 2019 to develop a range of potential new therapies in oncology, nephrology, immunology and neuroscience, while also advancing research in ophthalmology and muscle diseases, we will take these lessons learned and build from them. When we set our North Star with the needs of patients, we can bring our most promising treatments to the forefront.

Pairing innovation with access.

As we continue to push the boundaries of medical science, we also must ensure that coverage and reimbursement systems similarly evolve. Going forward, our industry needs to have constructive, positive discussions with payers, policymakers and other stakeholders to re-evaluate and evolve benefit designs to appropriately reflect the surge of innovation that has occurred – and the innovation that is to come.

One example is modernizing the Medicare prescription drug benefit so that it keeps pace with the latest science. Too many patients are struggling to determine whether to pay their high out-of-pocket costs or forgo needed treatments. They should not have to make this choice. For patients who require cutting-edge therapies, the current system often is not meeting their needs.

Astellas has put forth some ideas on ways to tackle these challenges, as have others. In a report released at the end of December, Medicare Access for Patients Rx (MAPRx), a coalition of patient, family caregiver and health professional organizations, outlined a number of potential regulatory and legislative approaches to help ensure beneficiary access and affordability in Medicare Part D.

Looking ahead.

We are committed to turning innovative science into value for patients – and we remain focused on helping advance productive policies that strike a balance between innovation and access. Through these efforts and more, we look forward to making 2019 a transformative year.

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