‘We must embrace innovations in health sector to boost economy’
Mr. Remi Adeseun, a Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, is the Country Manager, West Africa, IQVIA in General. In this interview with CHIJIOKE NELSON, Remi speaks about innovations, technology and data as milestones in strengthening the nation’s health systems and by extension, the economy.
Why is IQVIA entering Nigerian market considering that human data science and information management systems are still low?
IQVIA is the synergistic product of the merger between Quintiles and IMS Health in 2016.
We decided to come up with a unique name that abstractly reflects the two companies but more importantly to assure the healthcare community that the company existed to help them solve their various industry needs via human data science. Human data science is a relatively new category that we have brought to life and it draws on our strengths in the life sciences plus decades of deep technical and analytical data capabilities. As a result, IQVIA is today the world’s leading company in the area of human data science.
Currently a gap exists. In the world that we live in today, evidence is what drives informed decisions and evidence isn’t something that happens by chance. It is something that has to be planned for – design data collection strategies, identify the transaction and collection points, and partner with a wide range of people who are data suppliers. The information you get from that is processed and becomes useful as a feedback report to various stakeholders including the suppliers mainly manufacturers, importers and their distributors.
IQVIA through the data and analytics information assets that we’ve developed around the world, (which we are currently working to develop in Nigeria), can be a ready source of that informed decision-making process. This would enable government to take evidence-based decisions that would help fast track development and prevent policy flip-flops and medicine-after-death approaches to issues.
Why aren’t we seeing an increase in the adoption of mobile health apps and wearable sensors in Nigeria?
I will say that is a relative statement. I currently have a wearable sensor on, a Fitbit wrist-watch. It’s wearable technology and the information that it is syncing with my smart phone and computer system tells me my activity level. So a person with a blood pressure condition wearing such Fitbit wrist-watch can provide his/her physician with information to plan the patient’s treatment. Take that on multiple scales, take the weighing systems, there are so many ways that has brought a nexus between personalized technology, consumer health technology and their apps. You have apps that describe the type of exercise suitable for you when you put in your health profile, put in your health goals, diet goals, nutrition and so on.
What we plan in the IQVIA HCPSpace is to have doctors informed about the various health apps available in such a way that in addition to the ability to prescribe medicine they also become able to prescribe apps. We want to provide HCPs with opportunities, webinars, introduction, guidance and transform their mind to say the patient is your total object; you need to help him live a healthier life and you should avail yourself of all the information that our technology can support you with. It is not just medicines, or physical therapy, it’s also your knowledge of the apps that you can prescribe. We are going to have something on the platform to help them do that.
How do we address the alleged contradiction facilitating knowledge sharing in the sector?
I think digital platforms are best suited for breaking these barriers. Let’s take a look at our environment, we are traditionally conservative and you see many instances of the younger ones are to be seen not heard. However, the same young fellow who cannot speak to that revered adult in public, on the digital platform it is completely different. The digital technology platforms provide voice to the otherwise voiceless. Second thing is that the traditional institutions of brick and mortar are by nature limited. You may have heard about the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu being a center of excellence for cardio-thoracic surgery. However, the cardiothoracic surgeon in Enugu who is a guru in this procedure is not accessible to a young doctor doing residency training in Lagos.
With the digital platform like HCPSpace, access is unlimited to whoever is available. It is a barrier breaker on its own and it helps to bring people together who ordinarily would not have had the chance. It cuts through hierarchy, cuts through traditional barrier, cuts through geographic barrier, cuts through bureaucratic barrier and cuts through professional barrier. You will see leaders, medical directors, governors, presidents taking to social media, to technology platforms, being reached by ordinary citizens who would ordinarily never get past the gate. Same here, those key opinion leaders to whom a young professional may ordinarily not have access, HCP Space provides that. To breakdown those barriers is the reason why we have HCPSpace, to help individuals and professionals leverage beyond their immediate reach.
What gaps do you expect the IQVIA HCPSpace to fill?
One of the opportunities we saw was to look at how new media has helped to bring efficiency to how we work. If you look at Facebook for instance, if it were to be a geographical expression, it will probably be the biggest continent in the world in terms of the number of people that use Facebook. When you see such a movement that is able to bring people from all over the world to network, you start to see how this can be used for specific purposes. We got the idea that if we are to have a virtual platform that individuals do not have to build by themselves, everyone has its own core areas of competence as well as interests. So if you as a medical doctor or pharmacist start to develop your own digital environment, that is time you could spend delivering better pharmaceutical care or medical care.
We at IQVIA, for whom that is our core existence, technology, are taking that challenge on and providing a platform that is available for networking among healthcare practitioners of the same group for instance, so pharmacists can reach out to pharmacists, what is going on in our area, what are the cutting edge new development and beyond that, build on the work that is being done on getting greater collaboration among healthcare practitioners. So you see pharmacists, doctors working together to solve patients problems.
We also thought that we could develop the HCP Space in a way that we work with the regulators to identify genuine or validate genuine healthcare professionals, and have them in this secure environment where they can interact, form groups, have access to learning and development, continuing professional development either for the medics or pharmacists, nurses and laboratory scientists. This is building on the work that the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy did last year, and which I was a part of; that is the inter-professional collaboration thing, and taking it from ending up as having been a talk-shop and providing a tool that allows those professionals who have indicated willingness to collaborate to now have a tool that enables them to do so on an ongoing basis, without having to bother about how to maintain the infrastructure for that.
That is the service we have come to provide and we know that ultimately this would allow people access beyond even the practice in Nigeria, because the HCPSpace is for the whole of Africa and the Middle East. For the first time, a multinational is kicking off its new product development in Nigeria. Typically, things get developed in other parts of the world and brought here, but because of the confidence the IQVIA leadership team has in Nigeria market place in terms of the eco-system we have seen in health and tech, we are very confident that we can do this and take the HCP Space to other parts of the world. So even before other African countries, India, South Asia, and Middle East, Nigeria will be launching this IQVIA HCPSpace first in Lagos.
How can we reverse the non-cheery trend in healthcare outcomes in Nigeria?
Complex problems usually require multi-faceted approach not a panacea mindset of one silver bullet to solve all the problems in one shot; as such there is no magic wand that can be waved to make all the challenges go away. One way to look at this is to see that the World Health Organization has encouraged us to think in a systematic way about the healthcare system and how to tackle it. We have the concept of “building blocks of the health system”, and with that approach many of the solutions can be put together. As part of those building blocks, you have the governance and stewardship – how well are our policy making, planning and decision making done? This is an area where IQVIA is making that push to say when government works with reliable data collected in a systematic and sustainable way, better impactful decisions can be made.
In addition to data on the Pharmaceutical Market, we are trying to build data assets in Oncology. Cancer is becoming a priority for the Nigerian government because of an increase in incidence/prevalence, and to tackle it you need clear, useful and updated information on the types of cancer that afflicts different types of people, the treatment options that are available patient responses to treatment, etc. Implementing and maintaining such data/information systems on a dynamic basis to inform policy, treatment guidelines is where IQVIA has major capabilities. And so we are working to support stakeholders in this space by having cancer data assets. Also you look at communicable diseases like malaria, as old and simple as it appears, people are still succumbing to it because there are gaps in our knowledge and information. We are currently in the final stages of work with multilateral development partners on the surveillance landscape for malaria in Nigeria, because part of the best ways to be responsive and to help contain diseases is to have a good surveillance system that isn’t one-off. We are working with different public and private sector stakeholders, in a way that we bring our data capabilities to support government in that area of health systems strengthening.
As a thought leader in pharmaceutical sales and marketing in the country, what new challenge drove you to IQVIA?
The highest levels of professional recognition in the nation’s pharmaceutical industry are the Fellowship of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, which by God’s grace was conferred on me in 2012 as well as Fellowship of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy. However my involvement in the health space is beyond pharma and that is what has brought me to IQVIA. I have been in pharma all my life essentially, started as a medical representative with Sandoz, then operating as Swissco Nig Ltd, under the Jagal Group in 1989, with my first tour of duty in pharma ending in 2005 as Country Manager for Janssen Cilag, a Johnson&Johnson company after spending sixteen years exclusively in pharma.
In the last twelve years, I have gone on to do other things in the health space including a medical technology start-up, Rodot representing a foremost German dialysis equipment manufacturer, from which I am on a sabbatical. Another start-up in the not-for-profit sector, which I had been engaged in is Smile Train where I was Regional Director for West Africa. Smile Train is the world’s leading charity exclusively devoted to the surgical treatment of children born with cleft lips and palette. I started it in the sub-region and ran it for two years, took another break and then I moved on to an advocacy project, PSN-PACFaH – Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, a Gates funded program where I served as the Program Director (Strategy) for 2 years. We were successful in advocating for policy changes in the treatment for childhood killer diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia, with Amoxicillin dispersible tablets and Zinc/ORS respectively, becoming the first-line treatment in the National Standard Treatment Guidelines as well as the National Essential Medicines List.
As such, I have traversed a broad spectrum of healthcare sector in Nigeria.
Interestingly, human data sciences also traverses the entire spectrum of the health sector from the pre-clinical stage, research and development to clinical trials all the way to phase four –post-marketing surveillance.
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