On January 20, PM360 hosted a webcast, sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Snow Companies, on the importance of pharma, patients and advocacy groups joining forces early and in every facet of brand development.

At Intouch, we understand firsthand the importance of incorporating the ideas and opinions of patient advocacy groups throughout the brand development process by successfully collaborating with partners such as Snow Companies. No matter how skilled we are as marketers, no matter how comprehensive the social listening, no matter how powerful the research and insights, it’s impossible to speak on a patient’s terms without — well — actually speaking with patients.

This webinar further reinforced the necessity of collaboration in three specific areas:

Building Trust In the Industry Early On
One panelist, Ronny Mosston, vice president of patient advocacy and public affairs at OvaScience, referred to patient advocacy as “the DNA of a company.” Especially true in the infertility community, a self-pay industry, a feeling of trust toward a brand is the most important factor among patients. If you can earn the respect of the patient advocacy community prior to your brand launch, it will not only set your company apart, but also prove that your internal brand decisions always consider the viewpoint of the patient.

Patient Influence Across the Continuum
Tom Sellers, senior director of patient advocacy and corporate philanthropy at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, has firsthand experience in the oncology field. As a cancer survivor himself, he understands the influential power that patients have in their communities. By working with and including patient opinion leaders in every aspect, from discovery to market, your brand is able to get more robust learnings from the collective opinion of the group.

The Current Relationship State of Companies and Advocacy Groups
In the past, a lot of misconceptions precluded companies from engaging with patient advocacy groups. Brenda Snow, founder and CEO of Snow Companies, said that the skepticism went both ways.

“Patients felt that the pharma industry was as trusted as the tobacco and banking industries, while companies were concerned with the level of expectations from the patients,” she said.

As this relationship has progressed, the earlier companies found commonalities between themselves and patient advocacy groups, the more beneficial the relationship became. We are moving closer to involving more of these groups as early as the stage of clinical trial development, thus generating a great deal of data to drive research and drug development even further.

The theme of this webinar was not new, but rather a good reminder of the myriad of opportunities for integrating patients into the planning and marketing process. It was also a strong reminder of why we do what we do as pharma marketers.

What was historically a business arrangement between patient groups and companies has moved beyond just disease awareness. The trifecta of pharma, patients and advocacy plays an integral role in brand success by ultimately inviting patients to help us help them.