Creating a Better Healthcare System for Patients

Author: Liz Lewis, Head, Global Oncology Patient Value, Policy, and Access

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This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on February 14, 2022

Working in the healthcare industry across patient advocacy, value, access, policy and law for more than 30 years, I’ve been inspired by the tremendous progress we’ve made in developing novel treatments for patients. Recently, I was reminded though that not every aspect of the U.S. healthcare system moves with the same sense of urgency when I tried to refill my daughter’s prescription early, which resulted in several calls to the insurance company, pharmacy and doctor. Many others experience far greater stress and pressure every day as they live with and manage chronic and life-threatening illnesses, like cancer. Patients deserve better.

In the United States, we have some of the world’s finest hospitals and broad access to some of the most transformative medicines, yet our healthcare system is often filled with hurdles—including high cost-sharing, restrictive networks, required pre-authorizations and low quality of care—especially for those who are chronically or seriously ill. Why are we penalizing people for being sick?

Across the industry, companies are starting to take steps to solve these challenges. As I reflect on the work of Takeda, I’m proud of the progressive programs that our teams are delivering that prioritize the health of patients. Here are a few ways I feel our industry can continue to work toward giving patients in the U.S. the healthcare they deserve.

Make it easier for patients to understand their options

Navigating the nuances of today’s healthcare system, including the ins and outs of insurance, can be arduous; the complication with refilling my daughter’s prescription allowed me to take a step back and imagine how much more difficult it would be to navigate the system while facing the fears and questions that come with a cancer diagnosis. What’s become the norm is unacceptable. Patients and their caregivers need to be informed, in plain terms, of their options and deserve flexibility that supports their specific financial, treatment and logistical needs—a “one size fits all” approach won’t work.

At Takeda, we recognize each person’s diagnosis is unique. That’s why we tailor our programs, patient assistance and educational resources to build on the knowledge, experience and expectations of the different communities we serve—including patients, family, medical professionals and others touched by cancer. For example, our Here2Assist program helps patients who are prescribed our medicines navigate and understand insurance coverage requirements, identify available financial assistance and access helpful resources that can provide support throughout their treatment.

Partner to create patient-centric government reimbursement policies

The phrase “it takes a village” can be aptly applied to changing government policy. In the U.S., laws and regulations that impact public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid affect just about every aspect of our business—from research and development (R&D) to pricing and reimbursement to distribution. Differences in payment methodologies and access for enrollees in these programs based on site of care create confusion and burdens on patients and strain federal and state healthcare budgets. We need alignment between government, payers, advocates and industry to develop a system that ensures access to the highest standard of care in all practice settings, regardless of site. In our goal to develop high-quality clinical evidence and build on that data with real-world evidence, Takeda is paving the way to redefine patient and system value by developing shared accountability across the healthcare ecosystem. We believe that by bringing stakeholders together, we can collectively work to implement meaningful change to help all patients access their medicines and improve predictability and quality of care. 

Equally prioritize innovation in pricing and access

In the pharmaceutical industry, R&D is often in the spotlight—and for good reason! It’s what innovates the novel drugs we bring to market. However, in order to maximize the reach and impact of these innovations, we must modernize access reviews and policies. At Takeda, we view pricing and access innovation as an expansion of R&D. We’ve compliantly linked our scientific and commercial teams to ensure the treatments we develop reach those who need them as quickly as possible.

As an example, we have partnered with Point32Health in the U.S. to launch a value-based pricing program for one of our lung cancer drugs. By offering rebates for patients who stop taking the drug long-term due to efficacy or tolerability reasons, we stand behind the value of our innovation. Models that allow plans to apply savings to patients is the type of new approach we want to pursue at Takeda.

I’m proud of the programs we’re putting in place at Takeda to help alleviate the pressure the healthcare system sometimes creates for patients. With many of our industry peers making similar strides, my hope is that our collective efforts help us to ultimately shift the system to allow cancer patients—and all patients—to focus their time and attention on living healthier, fuller lives.