Chinese Patient Organizations Eye Greater Participation in Drug Development

Chinese Patient Organizations Eye Greater Participation in Drug Development

Patient engagement is coming to China, the world’s second largest economy and largest country by population. At a recent event in Beijing, representatives from over 50 patient organizations from home and abroad sought a dynamic exchange of ideas around drug research and development, from R&D to clinical trials, accessibility and improving overall outcomes. One thing was clear: patients in China are eyeing engagement with the drug development lifecycle—from early research and clinical trials to regulatory submission and commercialization. With up to 400 million people in the new middle class, this matters. Event organizer Roche is thinking ahead.


An Economist magazine survey result suggested that new medicine success rates are 18% higher in drugs that were developed with patient-centered clinical trials. Patient groups in America and Europe have long been players at the drug development table—that movement is now coming to Asia. James Kissell, director of Rare Cancers Australia, reported, “It’s now providing to be a time when patient group engagement is becoming more and more critical. As we see the need for patient centricity and involvement of patients in developing new and exciting therapies, the need for patient engagement is becomes greater and greater.”

Perhaps inspired by the “Western” groups, Chinese patient groups are becoming more emboldened to influence the process whether in cancer, rare diseases, transplantation and nervous system diseases, reported CGTN.

Western Pharma Influence: Data to Clinical Brand

The recent event was sponsored by Novartis, the Swiss Roche that has significant reaches in Asia. The company sought to offer a communication platform to “uplift the capability of Chinese patient organizations.” By organizing international experience exchanges for the past decade or so, it is adding a progressive point of view to what could be considered a more hierarchal-driven Asia. This is the second such event it has held in China.

Western pharma companies, such as Roche, have long engaged with patient groups. Now with their influence overseas, they help support the acceleration of this level and type of engagement. For example, Joyce Li, Vice President of Roche China Medical Affairs, commented, “By having patient organizations involved in data generation, especially to show in real clinical settings, as to what kind of effectiveness the drug can bring to patients, we can generate data much faster and bring more valuable data to the government for decision-making.”

Personalized Health Care

As drug development moves away from volume and towards value, precision therapeutics and personalized medicines will become increasingly prevalent reality in markets worldwide. Hence, firms such as Roche see the future, to some extent, and are investing in a level of patient engagement that opens up societies such as China for a more dynamic and fertile ground not only for superior data generation and consumer buy-in but also new branding opportunities not available before.

Collaborations for Clinical Brand

An example of dynamic collaboration would be Roche’s work with local Chinese lymphoma patients not only to establish meaningful exchanges and patient education but also as an underlying foundation for the development of trust, which can lead toward alignment with clinical brand. This aids patient recruitment campaigns for lymphoma clinical trials, for example. Hence, Chinese patients will demand early access to the most advanced and innovative treatments. 

Clinical Research as a Care Option Coming to China

This paves the way for clinical research as a care option in China. With unbelievable amounts of wealth accumulated in the last decades, lifestyles have also changed and certain diseases are on the upswing—from certain cancers to autoimmune diseases as a large wealthy class and giant middle class of up to 400 million people undoubtedly will come to expect advanced treatments as health care options—even if they are not approved yet. And as patient engagement unfolds in China, those advanced therapies that meet needs and produce results will contribute to massively valuable clinical and ultimately healthcare brand recognition. Roche should be commended for organizing these interesting events. And competitors should take notes.

Call to Action: Drug development organizations should probably understand the unfolding patient engagement landscape in China.