Pfizer uses ethnography and medical anthropology in drug development process

In 2013 Pfizer leadership realized that to better enable patient engagement throughout the entirety of the drug discovery, development, and delivery process, the company needed to be more systematic. Pfizer CMO Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D. explains what patient-centricity means for them and how they have used ethnography and medical anthropology in the drug development process.

“The key to being patientcentric isn’t just finding and using patient-centric tools, but understanding when they are appropriate to deploy. Ruminate on the following example: “We had some special challenges in a sicklecell disease study,” she states. “This is an emergency-room-based study where patients have to be in crisis. It’s a unique population, many of whom have been ill all their lives and are experiencing agonizing pain.” In trying to figure out how to meet these patients’ needs while creating a manageable study, Pfizer deployed tools not often used in the clinical setting, such as ethnography and medical anthropology. “We worked with the physicians, patients, and advocates so they all better understood and articulated the patient’s journey,” Lewis-Hall shares.”

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