Anthony Yanni, senior vice president and head of Patient Centricity at Astellas, says that for patient centricity to truly work, it must deliver value to both patients and the business

What is your background and current role?

As the senior vice president and head of Patient Centricity at Astellas, I am responsible for leading the development and execution of our global patient centricity strategy across all functions worldwide. At the heart of our ambition is to listen, partner with and thereby better understand how we can meet patient and caregiver needs throughout their healthcare journey and ensure the impact of the medicines we develop reflect what truly matters to them.

Before joining the pharmaceutical industry, I was fortunate to spend nearly 15 years in patient-facing roles – as a practising primary care physician, chief of Internal Medicine and chief medical officer for a US hospital and healthcare system.

Within pharma I have spent time in clinical development, but much of my work – over ten years – has been in the area of patient centricity, helping develop new ways of connecting the patient with the drug development process.

What does your day-to-day work involve?

At Astellas, the work of the Patient Centricity team is focused on helping our colleagues better understand the needs of our patients and to provide better care delivery options. We also spend a good deal of time supporting our global teams, reinforcing the importance of their work and its alignment with the core obligation of us all – a patient focus in all that we do.

We work to enable every employee to place the patient at the heart of every move they make in tackling some of the toughest health challenges. This means addressing key issues that matter to patients and applying their insights and perspectives to the entire product life cycle – from early research through to clinical development and ultimately to routine clinical use.

How would you define patient centricity?

I think of patient centricity in two ways. First, from a cultural perspective it is the conscious awareness of the patient in all activities, for each of our team members across the globe. Second, from an operational perspective it is developing systematic, sustainable and reliable approaches to creating partnerships with our patients, obtaining their input and insights and making those insights actionable. To do this, highly specialised vehicles need to be created and infrastructure changes made to allow for an impact on decision-making. This will enable a fully functional patient-focused medicine development and delivery process.

Is pharma fully on board with the concept or is there still room for improvement?

A decade ago, patient centricity wasn’t even a concept, the sector didn’t consult regularly with the patient and did not seriously consider that medicines could or should be developed with the real-world needs and perspectives of patients in mind. Back then, the idea of simply engaging the patient was at its beginning. However, there has been a significant shift in recent years and the industry at large has generally accepted that the patient does have an important role to play in drug development.

That said, there is plenty of room for improvement. While some companies are further along than others, full integration of patient insights across the entire research, development and delivery continuum has not widely evolved. These changes to the traditional drug development process are critical, in my view, to create the revolutionary outcomes we need as an industry and patients deserve.

How can pharma companies best ensure they are truly patient centric?

To truly embed patient centricity within the traditional business model is a journey that requires a continuing commitment from leadership, a long-term investment to develop the necessary systems to obtain and make actionable patient insights, and a change in infrastructure to allow for an impact on decision-making. Additionally, methods to consistently measure impact – both qualitative and quantitative – are needed to ensure continued support. For patient centricity to work in the long term, it needs to deliver value to both patients and the business. Importantly, if done in a comprehensive and integrated way, identifying and delivering value to the patient will in turn deliver value to the business. The goals are very aligned if the approach is systematic.

What are key challenges and opportunities in the UK?

In the UK, as in many countries, there are opportunities to align all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem around the value of patient insights. Linking these insights to portfolio decisions, clinical development and regulatory decision-making is a work in progress. Ultimately, we are all working together to ensure these outcomes deliver meaningful benefit for patients.

What has been your greatest professional achievement so far?

I have been fortunate to marry my passion for clinical practice – actually caring for patients on a day-to-day basis – with the opportunity at Astellas to create a global patient-facing function intended to improve the way treatments are developed and delivered. The privilege afforded me these past years to create new processes that will hopefully help influence the way pharmaceutical companies approach drug development and delivery – with the patient and not simply for the patient – has been a source of great professional satisfaction for me.

What are your goals for the future?

One of my biggest goals is to continue to enrich the patient-focused drug development process and corporate culture for Astellas worldwide, with patient centricity as a central pillar and focus for the entire organisation. Strengthening these values across every area of the business will help each employee understand their important role and contribution in improving outcomes and healthcare experiences for patients.

At the end of the day, we are not here to treat a patient – we’re here to care for a person. Having a conscious awareness of that person in every activity, from every area of the company, every single day, ensures we will create innovative and truly meaningful solutions.

What are your passions outside of work?

I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and children who not only support me in all that I do, but who have also achieved tremendous success on their own. I very much enjoy spending time with them. I like to exercise – I’m a runner – although not as fast or as far as in years past! I am also looking forward to hopefully travelling again soon.

NON_2021_0078_UK. May 2021