Henry Featherstone, Director of Public Affairs, Sanofi

Why is it important to ensure that the patient voice remains at the heart of pharma’s activities?

As a pharma company, our overriding aim is to develop and support access to medicines that best meet the needs of patients. But as an industry we cannot progress without engaging meaningfully with patients to better understand their needs. Sanofi includes patients from the outset, getting their insights alongside medical communities’ to better direct research investments. We also strive to understand patient perspectives on other topics like service design and patient programmes, to ensure that we can truly work on their behalf. Listening to patient perspectives helps us understand challenges not directly related to treatment, but where industry and patient organisations have common interests. This provides opportunities for collaboration, including campaigns to support better diagnosis, improve disease awareness and enhance prevention.

How does Sanofi engage with patient organisations to develop shared projects and goals, and ensure that the patient voice remains heard?

In 2017 Sanofi UK consulted with patient organisations to co-develop a Patient Charter, outlining our approach to future partnership working. We now follow an insight-led approach, where areas of mutual interest can easily and quickly be identified, and possible areas of collaboration discussed openly. Sanofi UK’s collaborations are based on a mutual understanding of each other’s needs, where dialogue is encouraged. Once we have identified potential areas of collaboration, our Public Affairs and Advocacy team then manages the relationship with the patient organisation, seeking input from other parts of the business as needed. This ensures projects are appropriate, supportable and have a clear benefit to the patient community. The Seeing Red campaign is a good example of Sanofi’s approach to patient organisation collaboration. Sanofi and Allergy UK worked together to raise awareness of the challenges facing people with severe eczema. Together, we surveyed people affected by this condition to understand the burden of disease. The data was used to raise awareness through a parliamentary event and subsequent press engagement on the impact of the disease. The report was hosted on the Allergy UK’s website, clearly highlighting Sanofi’s role.

Has COVID-19 affected how the firm is supporting PAGs and patients?

Patient organisations are facing major challenges due to COVID-19. The increase in demand for their services alongside having furloughed staff have reduced their ability to undertake important planned advocacy activity. It’s even more vital that we work alongside them right now, finding ways to work together for instance to support patient identification and raise awareness of diseases and patients’ needs. The pandemic has shown us that when quality partnerships are in place the speed at which we overcome challenges is increased. We will continue to nurture our collaborative working relationships to support them through these unprecedented times.

What do you see in the future for advocacy, and how is Sanofi exploring this?

Sanofi’s differentiator is to fully appreciate the unique needs of patient communities and the importance of patient involvement in pharma decision-making. We believe one of the best ways to achieve positive outcomes for patients is to work collaboratively with patient organisations and clinicians. For this reason, we are partnering with patient organisation leaders to develop a road map detailing how we can better foster industry-advocacy group partnerships.