The Health Industry’s Progress Toward Equity and Eliminating Disparities: A Look at the Biopharmaceutical Sector

For the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC), an alliance of leading companies and organizations from every health sector, one of the most important priorities on which all of our members are unified is the need to advance equity within our healthcare system and to eliminate health disparities. It’s not enough to say that we have the greatest healthcare system in the world. We need to ensure that every American has access to care of the highest quality.

Last September, HLC, in coordination with the management consulting and technology firm ZS, published a comprehensive report on existing variations in care quality within the healthcare system and how each health sector, and the government, can play a role in addressing them.

What we’re seeing from our member companies in all sectors is that the commitment to equity is not just rhetorical. There are tangible actions taking place throughout the healthcare industry to create healthier futures for the population as a whole. We are going to use this space to examine many of the initiatives taking place, beginning with a sampling from the biopharmaceutical sector.

Amgen is partnering with multiple organizations to improve care delivery for cancer patients as well as those with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The company is working to incorporate the patient perspective across the drug development process to aid in its efforts to achieve representation of patients in clinical trials and throughout the process all the way to commercialization. As part of improving the clinical trial process, Amgen is partnering with community hospitals and health systems in an effort to execute clinical trials as close as possible to where patients live and work.  The company is also investing in the training and development of healthcare providers from historically underrepresented populations to increase the number of investigators and clinical trial staff who look like the patients intended to benefit from the medicines Amgen develops.

Bristol Myers Squibb, as part of the company’s global Diversity and Inclusion and Health Equity Commitments, has committed $150 million over five years to address health disparities, increase clinical trial diversity, expand supplier diversity, increase workforce representation, and enhance employee giving in support of social justice organizations. Separately, the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation has also committed $150 million to address health disparities, increase clinical trial diversity and enhance employee giving. The funds are provided as grants to non-profit organizations intended to bolster community outreach and engagement, increase care coordination services, and ensure an ethnically diverse, culturally competent community health worker and patient navigator workforce. BMS also worked with HLC in spotlighting the work of the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, which is working to bring greater diversity to clinical trials.

Genentech, as well, is committed to the concept that clinical research should reflect real-world populations. It is incorporating enhanced population, science-driven strategies and inclusive clinical research action plans across its research and development programs. The company partnered with several clinical research centers in launching the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance. This coalition of clinical research sites works with Genentech to advance the representation of diverse populations in oncology clinical trials, test new recruitment and retention approaches, and establish best practices that can be leveraged across the industry to achieve health equity for all patients. Genentech is also sponsoring health equity regional symposia to identify health equity issues that matter most to the community and is investing in partnerships that provide healthcare and education in communities while contributing to positive change in our society.

Merck is continuing to partner with community-based organizations, clinical trial investigators and others to advance clinical trial diversity initiatives and ensure that the company’s clinical trials are diverse and inclusive. The company is also focusing on equity in care delivery, collaborating with organizations to develop innovative initiatives to improve access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment across the patient journey. Merck has made clear that it will continue to partner with community-based organizations to build trust in the community and better address the needs of underserved patients by meeting them where they are.

Pfizer is continuing to lead on health equity as a connector through its Multicultural Health Equity Collective, which is addressing health disparities among the most vulnerable and historically underserved populations. The company is continuing to pursue policies that promote data collection, interoperability and outcome measures that advance health equity, supporting efforts by stakeholders to develop standards informed by clinical development, post-marketing and education. It is prioritizing efforts to eliminate barriers, increase access, and raise awareness of the clinical trial process among diverse populations. And because Pfizer products span diseases for which underserved populations experience increase morbidity, it is ensuring that its patient assistance programs reach populations most in need while continuing to focus, as well, on social determinants of health.

Our next post on this topic will take a look at the health equity initiatives of some leading hospitals and health systems.