Patients have a growing influence on the course of drug development and the success or failure of new products, says a new report commissioned by US-based biopharmaceutical services provider Quintiles.

“Although patients may not yet fully understand their level of influence, many biopharma executives are taking notice,” commented Dr Dipti Amin, chief compliance officer at Quintiles. “They are addressing the quality, accessibility and cost concerns of the population through the delivery of drugs that safely and reliably address critical healthcare issues.”

Quintiles commissioned the New Health Report to gauge the opinions of biopharmaceutical and managed care executives as well as patients on progress with the New Health – the company’s term, unveiled with its new positioning and brand identity earlier this year, for the “fast-moving world of biopharma, where companies are under relentless pressure to drive innovation and add value to drug development while continuing to enhance safety, ethics and stewardship”.

In its stakeholder survey for the report, Quintiles found that nearly one third (32%) of biopharma executives and 35% of managed care executives felt patients would be very or extremely influential in the success or failure of new drug therapies over the next five years.

By contrast, only 11% of patients thought people like themselves would be very influential in shaping what new drugs would be available over the next five years, with 59% believing they would not be very influential.

If patients are to have more of a say in drug development, though, companies need to form a better idea of what actually matters to those patients, the report suggests.

For example, Quintiles’ survey found that only 6% of biopharma executives felt patients showed their influence most by opting for lifestyle or holistic approaches to health, whereas 45% of patients said they had made lifestyle changes within the last five years to avoid taking prescription drugs.

In addition, 33% of patients interviewed said they had stopped taking drugs in the last five years due to cost or switching to a lower-cost product, and 27% had not taken a drug because of potential side-effects or complications.

What drives value

A question on value drivers for medicines also revealed some marked disparities in perception between patients, industry and managed care (note: with these questions, biopharma and managed care executives were asked to rank options in order of importance while patients could select all options that applied).

A full 73% of patients defined the value of a specific drug in terms of its efficacy, compared with 44% of biopharma and 30% of managed care executives respectively. Safety scored 75% with patients, 38% with biopharma executives and 31% with managed care executives.

Patients also had a much higher regard for quality of life, with 59% seeing drug value in these terms compared with 15% and 19% of biopharma and managed care executives respectively. And cost scored just 4% with biopharma executives but 19% with managed care executives and 58% with patients.

Biopharma executives did acknowledge the perception gap and the need to move away from a primary focus on physicians in communicating value. Among the survey respondents, 69% felt their organisation was ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ effective at educating physicians about the overall value of specific drugs, compared with 37% and 31% respectively where payers and patients were concerned.

In the national survey conducted for Quintiles by Richard Day Research, respondents included 144 biopharmaceutical executives at large or emerging companies, 129 managed care executives and 1,048 US adults aged 18 years and over.