Can ROI ever be used with patient-centric?

SUMMARY: The goal of business is to maximize profits for shareholder returns but when a company that serves the public good pays CEOs millions of dollars in compensation while having among the highest profit margins within ANY industry I would argue that something is dreadfully wrong.

The U.S. pharmaceutical firms behind the approved coronavirus vaccines — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer — have quietly touted plans to raise prices on coronavirus vaccines in the near future and to capitalize on the virus’s lasting presence. What about countries and people that can’t afford those prices?

Patient-centric has become buzzwords within the industry. It should be patient-centric if there an ROI. When we do research, and the findings of what people want from the drug industry don’t align with ROIs, guess who wins?

I understand the need to generate profits, but pharma R&D has declined and been replaced with acquisitions and mergers. The reason most commonly espoused for R&D’s steady decline is one of naturally diminishing returns. Most chronic health issues can now be treated with generic medications. While certain high-profile figures call for a “cure to cancer,” pharma keeps developing expensive treatments that extend life for brief periods.

Some innovative small biotech companies are learning from COVID vaccine developments and feel that a vaccine to prevent and treat cancer could be developed when I talked to people within the industry, though, there was a ton of skepticism. Cancer is not just one disease. There are many different types of cancer and how they destroy the body differs by patient populations.

Of course the paradox of all this is that we desperately need the drugs that pharma produces. Researchers are finding that, compared to previous generations, members of Generation X and Generation Y showed poorer physical health, higher levels of unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol use and smoking, and more depression and anxiety. The lead author of the study said that “”if we don’t find a way to slow this trend, we are potentially going to see an expansion of morbidity and mortality rates in the United States as these generations get older.”

Generations X and Y grew up in the golden age of pharmaceuticals. There are pills to treat everything from high blood pressure to sexual dysfunction. It’s just too damn easy to take a pill rather than give up bad foods or exercise.

Pharma, like any big business, has met these needs and, in the process, said, “we don’t care about prevention, just treatment.” So pharma companies are meeting the needs of consumers. Some believe that pharma likes to keep us sick and addicted to their medications, but I know that’s not true. I have, however, been shot down on many research findings that can’t be linked to the ROIs of new Rx’s.

I really do love working in healthcare; it’s a hell of a lot better than marketing soda, but with the increase in CEOs who have financial backgrounds as opposed to medical backgrounds, I would argue that the industry has suffered.

As a nation, we just can’t sit idly by and watch our people get more and more unhealthy. Every healthcare touchpoint, including pharma websites, need to remind people that many health issues are within their direct control with better diets and more exercise. There is an excellent chance that someone who is obese will cost us 15X more in healthcare costs than someone who is not. That is unacceptable.

Not everything we do should be measured against ROI; it should be measured on whether we really want to be patient-centric and by doing so helping our industry help us all.