Bridging the gap between innovation and access is Percival Barretto-Ko's top priority
The way he tells it, Percival Barretto-Ko owes a lot to the profession of teaching. The President of Astellas Americas began his career as a chemistry and biology teacher at a high school in a small town just outside of Boston. He credits his time spent in the classroom as opening his eyes to the possibilities of science. It also equipped him with the tools needed for leadership.
“I am proud to have been a teacher. Teaching is about telling stories and inspiring people, crystallizing and painting a picture of your vision so that others will gain a better understanding. These are all skills that I use every day in my current role.”
Following business school, Barretto-Ko joined Roche, where he held commercial leadership positions across a spectrum of therapeutic areas ranging from Oncology to Virology. In 2005, he joined Astellas Pharma. After occupying several leadership roles, he was appointed the President of Astellas Americas back in March last year, overseeing Astellas’ operations across the region.
Barretto-Ko’s move from academia to the life science industry was driven in part by a personal motivation. “Growing up in the Philippines, I saw firsthand what it means to lack access to healthcare. I’ve seen health disparities in the world and my work in the pharmaceutical industry has given me the ability to be part of a solution to those disparities. It’s a personal mission for me.”
While he is encouraged by the slew of innovative therapies that have come out over the last 10 years, he also acknowledges that getting them to patients remains a grave challenge.
“Part of my focus is to work with my colleagues and external stakeholders to ensure that our health care system is able to keep pace with the science. Achieving this balance of innovation and access is a driving motivation for me.” This is the essence of value, he says.
Last year, Astellas launched the ‘value gene’, a global strategic plan to translate innovation into value for patients. It is a way to delve beneath the surface of value and find ways to practically apply it to patients.
Barretto-Ko outlines Astellas’ approach as focusing on three Ps; patients, people and performance. The interplay of all three is what unlocks value, he says.
“If you have a dogged, tenacious focus on the patient, and at the same time you have the right people and culture in place, the performance will follow. By doing that, focusing on the patient and the people, we can have the results that we want.”
Astellas are starting to structure clinical trials, research, development, and partnerships around this philosophy, says Barretto-Ko. “What is the real value to the patient? How does it impact their lives? Not just from an efficacy point of view, not just from a safety perspective but from a psychosocial perspective, from an out of pocket perspective; from a logistics perspective.”
These holistic measures are essential to bringing value to patients. Additionally, Astellas recently announced the establishment of a new global division that is focused on the entirety of the patient experience.
More broadly, patient experience includes all aspects of a patient’s care journey. The focus also extends to caregivers and better understanding and supporting their experience.
Through the prism of the patient
Since launching its patient experience organization, Astellas has made improvements to its consent forms to help patients.
Astellas also understands that “no single entity can serve the patient fully and holistically” and that it needs to collaborate with other key players in the healthcare system to navigate these obstacles.
To that end, Astellas has struck up a partnership with the Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators (AONN+). “They play such a crucial role in navigating patients through a very complex web of obstacles not just clinical but the whole holistic treatment,” says Barretto-Ko.
“One of the things that we're developing with them is an evidence-based oncology specific navigation tool for patients. This is intended to help patients clarify some of the questions that they might have, and when you get a diagnosis of cancer, you have a lot of questions to deal with and so do the caregivers.”
When completed, the tool is intended to provide an opportunity to provide patients with the level of support that they need from a multidisciplinary oncology team.
Here to stay
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, Barretto-Ko believes the true value of innovation will continue to drive conversations across the board.
He cites the political landscape in the US, where the Trump administration have made pricing a hot-button topic and similar conversations are driving policy decisions in Japan, Canada, Latin America and Europe.
“This is no passing thought. It's a good thing because at the end of the day, it is a discussion on the needs of the patient.”
You can see Percival Barretto-Ko speak on the keynote agenda at eyeforpharma Philadelphia where he will be speaking with Marc Boutin, CEO of the National Health Council about how the smartest companies are going to be those going beyond empowerment, beyond advocacy and work with patients for sustained access in a virtuous circle. Find out more here.