Pfizer Takes Novel Approach to Helping Ukraine

Unlike other corporations that have implemented sanctions against Russia, Pfizer could not leave the country completely without COVID-19 vaccines and other medications amidst its attack on Ukraine. However, CEO Albert Bourla, PhD pledged that all profits generated in Russia would go to Ukrainian humanitarian aid and response programs, food security and support services, and education for children. The company’s first down payment of $5 million will be spread out among eight nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to support humanitarian relief and response effort, and Dr. Bourla states, “We will continue to divert these profits to the Ukrainian people until peace is achieved.”

At the same time, Pfizer has closed clinical trials within Russia and will not invest further in local manufacturing. “[W]e in the biopharmaceutical sector have had a historical exemption from economic sanctions on a so-called ‘humanitarian’ basis, as we have an obligation to deliver our lifesaving medicines and vaccines to patients regardless of the circumstances,” the CEO explained. Pharma companies such as Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb are following suite with operations in Russia.

New POC Communication Solution from OptimizeRx

OptimizeRx, a provider of point-of-care technology solutions, enhanced its TelaRep offering to allow doctors to text pharma representatives right from their EHR program. TelaRep originally launched in April 2020 to enable HCPs to connect with medical science liaisons (MSLs) via on-demand video consults from within their EHR workflows. Now, OptimizeRx has completed integration of TelaRep’s one-click prescriber connectivity solution on the company’s Therapy Initiation and Persistence Platform and it has been adopted by the majority of OptimizeRx’s EHR network partners. The program is currently being used by over 200,000 HCPs.

“We are truly living in a hybrid work environment post-COVID,” Will Febbo, CEO of OptimizeRx, said in a statement. “Restrictions placed on personal interaction in a medical setting remain prevalent and, coupled with doctors’ lack of time, connecting with prescribers continues to be difficult for manufacturer representatives. The interaction that our TelaRep solution provides to the healthcare ecosystem bridges these challenges and is invaluable to a patient’s care journey.”

Steve Silvestro, Chief Commercial Officer, OptimizeRx, says the company has run several TelaRep programs, including one for an autoimmune therapy in which MSLs were having difficulty communicating with doctors about the complex scientific profile and prescribing requirements for their drug. But scripts saw an increase of 37% in the territories where TelaRep was implemented.

According to OptimizeRx, TelaRep can save providers time by allowing them to quickly get answers to questions about the science-behind-the-treatment, formulary coverage, or a need to obtain treatment samples.

Ashfield and Huntsworth Combine into Inizio

Reid Connolly will remain CEO of Evoke following its integration with Ashfield Health.

Ashfield Health and Huntsworth are now operating as Inizio, a global strategic partner for health and life sciences that unites both companies’ full suite of advisory, medical, marketing, communications, and patient and stakeholder engagement services.

Now one of the largest global healthcare marketing and communications organizations, Inizio will have operations in 35 countries with a team of 10,000+ employees. The company launches with five specialist business units: Inizio Advisory, Inizio Medical, Inizio MarComms, Inizio Engage, and Inizio Biotech.

Inizio MarComms will be represented by Evoke, which previously was integrated with several Ashfield Health marketing and communications agencies to form one brand with the goal of “making health more human.” Inizio MarComms will take on the Evoke naming convention across its specialty agencies, which include Evoke Canale, Evoke Create, Evoke Galliard, Evoke Inclusive Health, Evoke MicroMass, and others.

“Our market is evolving rapidly, requiring healthcare brands and organizations to be fluid, constantly transforming, and embracing of new technology into their marketing and communications to reach and engage their audiences in the most compelling way,” Reid Connolly, CEO and Founder of Evoke, said in a statement. “This was the perfect opportunity to create a genuinely different proposition to anything else in the industry—one that thrives in this type of change, giving our clients the ability and confidence to relentlessly focus on building empathetic experiences for patients that build enduring value.”

Inizio is backed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a private equity firm that acquired Ashfield Health’s parent company UDG Healthcare in 2021 and Huntsworth in 2020.

“From the moment we set out to bring Ashfield and Huntsworth together we knew we were combining a unique set of best-in-class capabilities,” Inizio Chief Executive Officer Paul Taaffe said in a statement. “The creation of Inizio is a direct response to the increasingly complex landscape our clients navigate in terms of clinical development, product launch, and commercialization. Through Inizio they can access the specialist expertise and a partner that will help them to optimize the commercialization of their products.”

Walgreens Launches Clinical Trial Business

Walgreens will attempt to improve patient recruitment and retention in clinical trials through its new business offering.

Walgreens is on a mission to increase access and retention in sponsor-led drug development research with its new clinical trial business. The pharmacy giant will broaden access to more diverse communities with a flexible clinical trial model that includes virtual and in-person options and draws upon its existing foundation of patient insights, and partner-enabled health and technology capabilities.

Ramita Tandon, Chief Clinical Trials Officer at Walgreens, stated, “Through the launch of our clinical trials services, we can provide another offering for patients with complex or chronic conditions in their care journey, while helping sponsors advance treatment options for the diverse communities we serve.”

The company plans to overcome patient recruitment and retainment issues using a three-pronged approach:

1) Drawing upon its pharmacy and patient-authorized clinical data, Walgreens can match diverse patient populations to trials across a range of disease areas based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and location. The tech-enabled approach and large registry of clinical trial participants will reduce the time it takes to match eligible patients to clinical trials.

2) Walgreens’ decentralized clinical trial platform, built on a rigorous compliance and regulatory framework to ensure patient privacy and security, leverages owned and partner digital and physical assets, including select Health Corner and Village Medical at Walgreens locations, to directly engage patients at home, virtually, or in-person.

3) Through a robust foundation of real-world insights, Walgreens can support sponsors’ drug development strategies, inform clinical trial designs, optimize trial execution, and improve diversity in trials. The system was put into practice when Walgreens’ COVID-19 Index helped inform national and local health decisions and plans.

Klick Health Goes Global

Klick has made plans for global expansion, announcing the launch of three international hubs: a Singapore hub to serve Asia-Pacific; a London hub to serve Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and a São Paulo hub to serve Latin America. They will also open offices in additional cities, including Basel, Switzerland; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Munich, Germany; and Tokyo, Japan.

“We are incredibly proud of the Klick difference we have been providing to life sciences clients domestically and internationally,” said Klick Health CEO Lori Grant. “The patterns of client requests and increasing global demands for our unique talent, approach, and capabilities continue to amplify. In fact, we’ve been strategically planning this expansion since pre-pandemic, and it was ultimately the intensifying chorus of clients asking for us to grow our global footprint that made this timing optimal.”

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