DIALOGUE WITH STAKEHOLDERS - Dialogue with stakeholders
Industry Perspective - Gary Lee Geipel
Eli Lilly: Keeping PACE with patient needs
Gary Geipel is passionate about healthcare. He has to be.
Gary is a Senior Director with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company, and his particular sphere of responsibility is the PACE initiative (Patient Access to Cancer care Excellence).
PACE is a more-than two-year-old Lilly programme geared towards helping patients (and other stakeholders) understand the mindset and barriers around cancer treatment.
And, although Gary works out of Lilly HQ in Indianapolis, US, this is a global initiative that also looks at the systematic barriers to medical innovation and patient access – a big issue in Personalised Medicine.
Geipel describes PACE as a network that acts collaboratively with stakeholders and takes guidance from a Global Council of thought leaders, covering among other things, the difficult issues surrounding patient access to clinical trials. PACE also aims to “strengthen the voice of the patient in HTA decisions”.
“The lack of a patient voice in key decision-making is an historical problem,” Geipel says.
Often it’s down to information, or a lack thereof, and the 51-year-old Lilly executive concedes that there is “an element of paternalism” when it comes to professionals dealing with patients. “It’s all well-intentioned,” he says, “but sometimes there is a lack of accurate understanding of the reality of what the patient is experiencing.”
”Patients can often be the most articulate about what they need – they have knowledge of their own situation,” Geipel adds. “Therefore it is foolish to exclude the patient from decision making.”
Although originally a US initiative, PACE is active in several EU countries, most notably the UK, Germany, France, and Italy, who are full partners. And with Italy set to take over the EU’s rotating presidency later this year, Geipel thinks Europe should work hard to focus on three key areas: putting patients at the centre of health-care decision making; raising awareness of the facts (for example, that cancer is not one but many different diseases) while aiming to improve prevention rates, and; accelerating R&D.
On the latter issue, Geipel points out that the expected HIV global pandemic was halted by a huge R&D effort that saved millions of lives. Similarly, he says, due to ongoing research, breast cancer is now “a manageable illness rather than a death sentence.”
But R&D, then getting a drug onto the market, is an expensive process, so what does Geipel think about cases where some argue it is not worth the money? “I think there’s often a misunderstanding about the nature of progress. It tends to occur in steps, not necessarily with massive leaps.”
“OK, people may say ‘why should we pay for something that, improves outcomes by just a few months or even a few weeks?’ The fact is that step-by-step is how research works – we have to go step-by-step up the ladder.”
As a globetrotting North American it’s fair to assume that Geipel has his views on US-EU trade agreements and he’s pretty clear that fewer restrictions will create better movement of goods heading from Europe to the US and vice-versa.
“People tend to think of trade agreements as buying and selling things like automobiles, but it affects the health industry too. A better legal framework and understanding of that framework aids access to potentially life-saving medicines across the globe.”
It’s all challenging stuff, but there’s no doubt that the PACE initiative is working hard to improve patient influence on, and access to, what matters to them the most.