Managing Director UK, Ireland & Nordics, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd,
and Country President, Novartis UK
Pharma companies are reimagining medicine by exploring collaborations with healthcare systems to deliver rapid and equitable access to treatments for cardiovascular diseases.
Despite advances in science that include innovative new monitoring technologies and ground-breaking therapies, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality across the world.
According to statistics from the British Heart Foundation, a quarter of all deaths in the UK can be attributed to heart and circulatory diseases — that’s more than 160,000 a year. No wonder the NHS Long Term Plan has set a target to prevent up to 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases over the next 10 years.
Chinmay Bhatt, Managing Director UK, Ireland & Nordics, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, and Country President, Novartis UK, is optimistic that this milestone can be reached. But he is also under no illusion and knows that getting there will be hard. On the plus side, the global pandemic has focused minds on the importance of health and healthcare. “Health has become a central part of our societal debate,” he says. “More than ever, people understand that underlying health conditions are a cause for concern.”
Addressing health inequality
In theory, people can mitigate their CVD risk factors with a range of lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, modifying diet and losing weight. “Over the last few decades, public awareness of heart attacks and stroke and the importance of measuring blood pressure and cholesterol has improved,” agrees Bhatt. “But I think much more can be done to treat underlying risk and conditions.”
In practice, of course, it’s not quite that simple. “There’s a big problem of health inequality in our society,” notes Bhatt. “For example, we know that people in lower socioeconomic classes are four times more likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease than people who are more privileged. Our organisation wants to address the challenge of CVD with a broad portfolio and pipeline of therapies; but we also want to address this stubborn health inequality issue to give broad, rapid and equitable access to treatments.”
We need digital technologies that will identify at risk CVD patients, thereby speeding up their diagnosis and treatment.
To do this successfully, Bhatt believes that pharma companies like Novartis should explore new approaches and partnerships. “Doing things the old way — where a pharma company would come up with an innovation, then work with the NHS to get it out into the market and hope that it sticks — is just not enough anymore,” he insists.
“Our bold science should be accompanied by bold partnerships. That’s why we work closely with a number of different stakeholders such as NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), the NHS, and the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative to coordinate solutions in a focussed way. We help characterise the population that may benefit from a particular drug; then we work across geographies to ensure widespread education among healthcare professionals to improve patient pathways and ensure that patients can benefit more rapidly from innovation.”
Utilising digital technology
With hospitals so overburdened, Bhatt thinks it’s vital to reach as many CVD patients as possible through GP networks so that disease management can become a feature of primary, rather than secondary care. “We want to do anything we can to reduce the capacity on the NHS, because if people make fewer visits to hospital then patient backlogs will reduce,” he says.
Digital technology can play a part here. “Digital tech has been one of the great enablers during the pandemic, facilitating the successful vaccination roll-out,” says Bhatt. “We need digital technologies that will identify at risk CVD patients, thereby speeding up their diagnosis and treatment.”
Bhatt believes that stakeholder cooperation is here to stay and with it the potential for CVD treatments to be delivered to more people quickly. “There is a growing realisation that no one party can solve healthcare issues on their own” he says. “If anything, the spirit of collaboration and partnership across the healthcare ecosystem has grown stronger since the start of the pandemic.”
Novartis has had full editorial control of this article
MLR ID 195391