Pharma’s Role in Cancer Survivorship
Although the cancer-cure revolution has yet to dawn upon us, research has made significant inroads into beating, or at least fighting, the disease. Advances in medical research and technology, improved diagnosis and therapies, and better patient care — combined with rising life expectancy — has driven cancer survivorship the world over. However, those fortunate to survive cancer often struggle with its long-term repercussions, hypertension, bone and joint problems, and fatigue, among many others.
So, what’s the solution to successful cancer survivorship management?
Cancer Survivorship Management: The Need of the Hour
The need of the hour is for stakeholders across the healthcare, medical, and pharma spectrum to collaborate to raise awareness around the dynamics of cancer survivor’s needs. Cancer survivorship cannot be perceived as something separate or far removed from the treatment of cancer itself. It needs to be recognised as an integral aspect of cancer care.
Equally important is the role of the pharmacist community in spreading awareness and best practices. Patient support with respect to anti-cancer medication is critical, and pharmacists have a pivotal and educational role to play in providing patients with information on the right medication, dosage, and patient adherence. The criticality of patient information has been reiterated by Andrew Schorr, a medical journalist diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) in 1996. Andrew believes that pharma needs to go the extra mile to educate patients to help them make more informed decisions and gauge the suitability of treatment for them (Davies, 2015). Furthermore, pharma players need to understand the patient voice and perspective, and this can be effectively achieved only by interacting with them via social media and through independent patient communities.
When it comes to innovation, pharma has made significant inroads into cancer drug development. Treatments have become progressively specific and customised to attack different types of cancer. The key, however, often lies in the unconventional route – the road less travelled. Another celebrated survivor, Jack Whelan, says 95% of patients continue to receive conventional therapy in the form of chemotherapy. There are newer, targeted therapies that are still at the clinical trial stage (Upton, 2015). Although they can prove to be successful, access to, and knowledge of, such therapies remains a roadblock.
Pharma: A Critical Cog in the Cancer Survivorship Wheel
Cancer survivorship has been a positive breakthrough, and the medical community globally continues to strive to make it completely curable in the future. Yet, such efforts need to be supported by increased collaboration between all relevant stakeholders – governments, pharma businesses, healthcare providers, social care providers, and payers. The regulatory environment plays a major role in driving patient communication and access to innovative medical treatments. Furthermore, patients and their caregivers must constantly seek knowledge, whether it is about traditional treatment or uncharted territory.
As the human war against cancer wages on, we need to look beyond symptomatic therapy. Pharmaceutical and medical breakthroughs must be coupled with a community-driven effort to conquer the disease from all angles – even at the survivorship stage. Besides the physical challenges patients face because of medicines and therapy, stronger focus on the psychological, social, and practical needs of cancer patients and survivors is critical. With a collective effort towards an increasingly integrated and inclusive approach to patient wellness, we can hope that the “Emperor of Maladies” is conquered once and for all in the years to come.