This is definitely a personal plug – a plug that can also help the pharma industry find a path to working in the diverse communities they are currently trying to sort through. I am excited to be a speaker at the upcoming DTC National Multicultural Health National meeting on April 20, 2022. I will be talking about my concrete experience in helping pharma build sustained relationships in communities of color. Over the years I have built on the lessons from my first commercial initiative working with communities. This is the initiative I will present. Over time I have done this work pre-IND through commercialization. After all, it is only the situation that changes – R&D or commercial – not the people or their values and behaviors.
This focus on the community will help improve diversity in clinical trials as well as have a positive impact on health equity. If you are truly interested in reaching diverse communities with your marketing efforts you simply must engage the communities where your patients are.
Where Pharma Needs to Put Their Money
I have been at this patient-focused thing for more than 15 years. I was ready to give up on it, again, when the COVID pandemic hit. With COVID the industry started learning and actually addressing health equity issues. A few companies issued declarations and commitments to spend on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. It has taken a while to really see these efforts come to fruition. The $100MM and $300MM announcements are nice drops in a bucket of efforts that will really cost billions. Invest these dollars in community-based efforts and the companies will see a return – I have seen it, I have done it.
Additional Perspectives of the Value of Community Engagement
After presenting this community-based approach to one company, the team I presented to said to me that this is such a simple approach and asked me why aren’t other companies doing it? Great observation and question. I told them that this was a decision grounded in a company’s culture – simply a choice. This sentiment is echoed in the March 18, 2022 comments of Edward Mills PhD, FRCP, Professor, McMaster University during a webinar sponsored by the NIH Collaboratory at Duke University. Dr. Mills was part of a team presenting results of a clinical trial ” Better Data on Ivermectin Is Finally Here: Results from the TOGETHER Trial “. Dr. Mills commented about how successful they were in recruiting for the trial at their site in Brazil, at the height of the pandemic. Dr. Mills attributed the success to the engagement the team had with the community. When asked to elaborate on this he was also asked why isn’t this engagement done more frequently he attributed this simply to the ego of the leadership. I concur. Working with the community seems like such an altruistic approach that there is little faith in the effort by the uninitiated.
For more proof points please get to know C. Daniel Mullins PhD at the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus (UMBC), School of Pharmacy. For more than 20 years Dr. Mullins has been advocating for more community engagement and has established the PATIENTS Program at UMBC. On the program’s website the PATIENTs Program is described as “The PATIENTS Program is an interdisciplinary research team of community partners and researchers housed at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy that works to change the way we think about research by creating a path for health equity in West Baltimore.”. The principles may be taught to support West Baltimore – I am here to tell you the principles apply everywhere. People just need to put their scholarly egos on the back burner and go into the community to learn and apply.
More Focused Than Ever
So, as I was ready to quit, this community-based approach is continuing to be reinforced as the right approach. Being chosen to speak at DTC National will be great exposure for this thinking. Come support me, follow me, register for the event, keep your eye out for others as I pick myself up to continue the charge.
Just my thoughts,