In this Expert Insight, Sanna Jousi of Diaceutics discusses patients’ perceptions of the pharmaceutical industry and diagnostic testing and the opportunity this presents for the pharma and the diagnostic industries to connect with patients.
A recent survey illustrated the perception of consumers towards the pharmaceutical industry. We will not go into the details again as you can read more here. However, this survey and others prompted us (wearing our personalized medicine hats, of course) to consider how companion diagnostics might change the nature of pharma/patient involvement. To do this, we set out using social media, to contrast the attitudes patients had about Zelboraf during a four-week period after its launch, versus another non-targeted oncology therapy during the same period shortly after its launch.
Both therapies carried the same positive reaction in about 14 per cent of patients, but a negative reaction was observed in 50 per cent of patients commenting on the non-targeted therapy versus only 17 per cent in patients commenting on Zelboraf. Only 36 per cent of consumers were neutral-factual in their comments about the non-targeted therapy versus 70 per cent in Zelboraf.
We surmised this was too small a sample despite the perceptual differences in targeted versus non-targeted therapies and, as a result, we do not wish to extrapolate too much from these data points at this stage. A more extensive patient engagement initiative is underway and we will report back on that in due course.
However, as we probed around different levels of consumer engagement on social media regarding health care, we did spot something most compelling. Patients talk about diagnostics and testing four times more frequently than they talk about treatment. We have repeated this analysis several times over the past 18 months and always see the same thing. Patient activity begins not with a discussion of the right therapy, but the right test. This presents an enormous opportunity for pharma and diagnostic leaders in personalized medicine to interact with patients to discuss their testing choices. We cannot guarantee it will singlehandedly reverse the negative perception consumers have of pharma, but we do conjecture that the concept of targeted therapy and targeted companion testing opens up new opportunities to change the narrative.