Patti Peeples, R.Ph., Ph.D., founder and CEO of HealthEconomics.Com, will be a keynote speaker at RISE’s 18th Annual International Publication Planning Meeting, February 20-21, in San Diego. In this exclusive interview, Peeples talks about the changes in health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) and real-world evidence (RWE) in the last three years and what they mean for the publication planning industry.

Rapid changes within HEOR and RWE have created opportunities for expert communicators who understand the value of a drug and can explain it to payers, patients, and providers, says Patti Peeples, founder and CEO of HealthEconomics.Com, a resource portal for those in the health care value industry.

Peeples, a health economist, pharmacist and entrepreneur, will discuss the latest developments in the industry and the importance of being able to translate the value of a drug to stakeholders during her keynote presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at RISE’s 18th Annual International Publication Planning Meeting. Those developments include research being evaluated through a learning system approach and regulatory advancements, particularly in the United States, which will eventually allow RWE data to facilitate and speed up potential drug approval.

“I’m most excited about the development of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) use of real world data and new drug approval,” Peeples told RISE. Ultimately, she says, this change will help the country better understand the way drugs work in the real world as opposed to being surprised on how they differ from clinical trials once they are released into the marketplace. “Real world evidence can narrow the gap of understanding, help improve outcomes, and reduce costs.”

She is also pleased that stakeholders are having a more transparent discussion about drug pricing. Policymakers are feeling the pressure about drug costs from consumers and payers, who are helping to expose what Peeples describes as the “black box around drug pricing.” These discussions will hopefully lead to policies that will make health care more affordable and help improve market access to health care and drugs. “It will also help organizations that work with this data to move the needle and improve patient health care,” she says.

Peeples also sees the benefits of the work conducted by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), an independent and non-partisan research organization, to evaluate the clinical effectiveness and value of drugs once they launch. The framework looks at the cost-effectiveness from both societal and budget impact standpoints. Although there is controversy over the value framework, which has been tweaked over the past two years, it has helped force a hard discussion on drug pricing and cost effectiveness, she says.

ICER’s work, as well as the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s aggressive investigation on the “cost toxicity” of cancer care, the movement toward outcomes-based drug pricing, and the National Pharmaceutical Council’s work for patient advocacy and healthcare affordability, are all helping to shine a spotlight on market access and cost. All the factors have made pharmaceutical pricing more transparent, she says.

The emerging role of expert communicators

It also means that individuals involved in publication planning must understand the latest trends as well as what the value of these drugs means to physicians, payers, policymakers and patient advocates, according to Peeples. For example, the FDA’s decision to accept RWE as a potential component for drug approval will require communication experts who can write about the data sources and the data collected from a regulatory viewpoint, as well as communicate it post-approval to payers, providers, and patients.

“There are many medical writers and publication planners who are nimble with clinical trial data, but there are fewer (and the need is growing) expert communicators who will be able to help with the enormous increase in RWE and HEOR data that will be coming forward,” she says.

Peeples sees this as a huge growth opportunity for communicators in publications and expects that pharmaceutical companies will also need to work with their vendors to restructure their organizations to make sure that they hire individuals with the right communication skills.

HealthEconomics.Com is currently conducting a benchmark survey on value communication, which so far has 150 respondents from HEOR and RWE researchers, medical writers, publications, and journal editors. Peeples said the results to date indicate great dissatisfaction in the way value messages are currently translated to the customer. Respondents also express dissatisfaction that the value message often doesn’t align with their customers’ goals.

For example, patients may want the drug to be affordable, improve the quality of their lives, and reduce symptoms. But insurers will want to know the impact to their budgets and whether they can afford to pay for the drug compared to other medications. Peeples says both stakeholders require different messaging and that it may involve hiring communicators with different skill sets.

The industry also needs individuals skilled at presenting data visually through charts, graphs, and other visual tools and people who can write the words that accompany those visual aids, according to Peeples.

“We have a lot more data these days from so many different sources: health insurance claims data, electronic health records, wearables, and patient reported outcomes. We are getting a little better at relating these data sources together, but if the data is not presented in a consumable way, it’s still numbers and it’s not useful. There is very much a role and need for individuals who have the capacity to present RWE in a succinct, impactful and persuasive way,” she says.

Peeples also sees a need for communicators who understand predictive analytics and artificial intelligence and can explain the data that predicts disease, who responds to a drug, and what type of individual would likely experience a side effect.

This means that the industry needs communicators who understand the needs of researchers, and those who can also present the research findings to payers, providers, and consumers.

 “I hope we’ll begin as a group to better understand where we are right now in value communication by each stakeholder: one that develops the data, one that analyzes the data, the ones that write up the results, and the ones that receive the information,” she says.

Editor’s note: Dr. Patti Peeples will present her keynote address, “The Value of a Drug – What it Means, Why it Matters, and How to Communicate it,” at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the 18th Annual International Publication Planning Meeting.