Ipsen CEO David Loew took aim at the lip service often paid to the notion of ‘patient-centricity’ in pharma in conversation at the FT’s Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference last week and explained how the industry should take on a wider and deeper role in shaping healthcare systems, thereby creating better overall outcomes for patients.


We can take patient-centricity a notch further by becoming more analytical, more insight-driven, and being assertive in shaping how healthcare gets delivered

David Loew, Ipsen

In a ‘Fireside Chat’ with the FT’s Global Pharmaceuticals Editor Sarah Neville entitled ‘Patient-centricity isn’t enough: rethinking how we provide value to patients’, Loew outlined how he had dealt with taking on the CEO role during a global pandemic – including conducting virtual tours of Ipsen facilities and answering employee questions via a robot – and previewed the company’s updated strategic plan, due to be released on December 1st 2020. The plan looks set to include a doubling down on the therapeutic areas in which Ipsen already excels and a fine-tuning of the French firm’s external innovation strategy.


However, the main topic of conversation was patient-centricity, a perennial pharma industry buzzword, but one without a fixed definition. Loew was keen to note that “there is a pretty big range of interpretation as to what [patient-centricity] exactly means” and highlighted that while many companies are spending time and money on trying to be empathetic with patients and patient groups, “[they] are missing deep insights into not just how [patients] feel, but the entire journey they go through, from diagnosis, to referral, treatment, access, and whether their healthcare system is taking good care of them.” He added, “we can take patient-centricity a notch further by becoming more analytical, more insight-driven, and being assertive in shaping how healthcare gets delivered.”


With the COVID-19 pandemic having brought systemic healthcare inadequacies into sharp relief, Loew feels that the time is now right for Ipsen, and other global pharmaceutical companies, to take on a wider role and help shape more patient-centric healthcare. “As a pharma industry we need to see how healthcare systems around the world have managed to work though [the pandemic] and begin to take on a ‘consultant’ role; learning from one space or country, taking that knowledge somewhere else, and helping stakeholders to organise diagnosis and care better.”


Loew also underlined that this evolved role for the pharma industry can help boost the reputation of an often-maligned and scandal-hit sector. He stated that, “We do have a voice, not just to argue about our drugs’ scientific merit or side effect profile, but also how they get delivered and how diseases are being diagnosed. We can play a much bigger role and create more credibility for the pharma industry by becoming truly patient-centric.” Loew added that greater transparency from the pharma industry – being honest with stakeholders about where there are conflicts of interest and where there are alignments – will lead to greater mutual respect and improved outcomes, as well as removing some of the cynicism around pharma.


Other topics covered in the brief but wide-ranging conversation included how Ipsen has long incorporated patient-centricity into its executive incentivisation plan and why the switch to remote care necessitated in many cases by COVID-19 has had positive impacts on patients that will continue post-pandemic. For example, Loew pointed out that Ipsen’s self-injection device, rolled out in the last few months, allows cancer patients to receive treatment in the comfort of their own home. These kinds of innovations are, in Loew’s words, “a win-win-win” for patients, more of whom can receive treatment at home; for healthcare systems, which consequently spend less on expensive hospital treatments; and for Ipsen, which plans to continue in this direction for the foreseeable future.