The evolution of the EFPIA Patient Think Tank over the last fifteen years (Guest blog)
My first meeting of the EFPIA Think Tank was in June 2006, during my first month at the European Patients’ Forum – quite a while ago! The Think Tank had been in existence for a few years and had established itself, primarily, as a forum for information exchange between patient advocates and industry representatives working in the field of patient advocacy, or governmental affairs, meeting four times a year. The focus was to exchange respective viewpoints on policy developments at EU level and was very much ‘Brussels’- oriented. It was a useful forum to discuss, for example, pharmacovigilance legislation, the high-level pharmaceutical forum, animal testing, and so on.
Fast forward to today’s Think Tank, we can see how much it has evolved since those early years, thanks to a new, dedicated leadership in EFPIA and a steering group who invest time and energy in ensuring it is effective, but also the heightened significance of patient engagement and patient centred care as vital topic. It became clear that the Think Tank was an important vehicle to ensure meaningful patient engagement in the body politic of EFPIA, providing a patient perspective in all relevant work streams – not to “rubber stamp”, but contributing important insights at the early phases. The Working Together Programme and related publications were important milestones, as, for the first time something very tangible came out of the Think Tank co-created by patient organisation and industry representatives. Significant efforts went into encouraging involvement from representatives from Central and Eastern Europe countries, and even creating similar national level Think Tanks.
In the last few years, the EFPIA Patient Think Tank, alongside addressing relevant policy topics, has helped to grow and accompany EFPIA’s wider patient engagement strategy, endorsed at Board level. New projects have been initiated through conversations at the Think Tank, such as Data Saves Lives, and a new collaborative initiative on patient involvement in health technology assessment (HTA) led by HTAi, bringing together the patient community, industry and HTA bodies across Europe. The Think Tank will also have the opportunity to contribute to the Innovative Health Initiative, successor to the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). There is ongoing collaboration with EUPATI and PFMD to ensure maximum synergy with related patient education and patient engagement activities. Key to the Think Tank’s success is the quality of the discussions which are frank, open and always challenging the status quo – and the commitment of all participants, each bringing their own experience, viewpoints and expertise to the table.