The Birth of phactMI™ – Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information


There’s a new Consortium of drug companies called phactMI™ that you should know about. PhactMI™ stands for the Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information. Medical Information (MI) departments from 19 manufacturers have raised their hands in collaboration to address the continuously growing need among healthcare professionals (HCPs) for more convenient access to transparent medical information. The focus is to help inform HCP decision-making around patient care. The Consortium’s name delivers on the mission according to the Consortium founders. Manufacturers have more facts about their own drugs because they are the source of clinical research and development with access to all the relevant data.

The principles behind phactMI™ are those that drive the great innovations in our regulated healthcare industry:

  1. A super-ordinate goal rallies groups to collaborate
  2. Compliance is embedded in the concept
  3. Technology is a key enabler and continually evolves to meet stakeholder needs
  4. Communications are solutions-oriented and built on trust

To capture the story behind the birth of the phactMI™ concept, how it got its name and the long-term vision of this initiative, I interviewed phactMI™ board member, Stuart Sowder, Vice President, External Medical Communications at Pfizer. Sowder spearheaded the group’s founding. He shared how the seeds for the Consortium were planted in September 2014 during an innovative think tank meeting in the Silicon Valley, home to creative and bold thinking.

I also interviewed Cecilia Bakker, Assistant General Counsel at Pfizer, who is helping lead and navigate the phactMI™ group through legal decisions related to the initiative; and Jennifer Riggins, phactMI™ Vice President and Director of Global Information Disclosure at Eli Lilly and Company, who is spearheading the phactMI™ technology solutions for transparent decision-making.

Additionally, I reached out to Melissa Harris, Medical Lead for Hepatitis C (former lead of US Medical Information and Field Medical Operations) at Bristol Myers Squibb, Patrick Reilly, Vice President of Global Medical Information at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sara Doshi, Advisor for Medical Information Strategy and Operations (GMI), Eli Lilly and Company to gain an even broader understanding of the phactMI™ initiative.

Before sharing more about their perspectives, let me quickly recap the role of the Medical Information (MI) specialist.

Credentialed MI professionals, who work in-house for drug manufacturers, help HCPs by providing timely access to extensive, scientifically balanced, and rigorously researched data upon their request. Since these MI professionals possess a current and comprehensive knowledge base and clinical experience, they are able to provide requested feedback that is customized to help HCPs make informed medical decisions. Sara Doshi explains: “Their days are spent learning all they can about a product so that they can best communicate relevant information to an external requestor. They have access to a wealth of information about their respective products not available elsewhere. Their information resources include clinical study details, case reports, formulation information, temperature stability data, ingredient sources and other unpublished information.”

A super-ordinate goal rallies groups to collaborate
According to Stuart Sowder, medical information leaders from drug companies come to work every morning with the same goal.

“We all wake up thinking about the scientific, relevant, timely, and factual data that can help respond to specific HCP questions and increase their ability to make decisions which benefit their patients.

“So it really struck a chord with me when leaders from some of the top minds in innovation representing different industries said that companies must collaborate to advance the public good. This insight was shared at an offsite leadership event I attended.

“I parked this thought away in the corner of my mind until a few months later when I was on a panel at a recent annual meeting of the Drug Information Association with several leaders of MI functions from different companies. During lunch, I shared my vision for our collaboration — and everyone shook their heads, ‘yes’.”

“The idea of collaboration as an industry across companies really took off during lunch that day,” states Melissa Harris.  “The group exchanged examples of frustrated clinicians struggling to collect a wide range of information from multiple websites rather than a single source.”

Harris states, “We asked ourselves:  what could we do as an as a united industry to inform care decisions for patients.  This one simple question led us to conclude that the time was right to band together to address a pressing need.” To that end, phactMI™ has launched a convenient portal where HCPs can search for or select a product from a list of member products to submit a medical inquiry directed to the relevant company.

Compliance is embedded in the concept
According to Cecilia Bakker, the medical leaders who founded the phactMI™ Consortium are compliance minded. “From the outset, the phactMI™ concept was an extremely workable one from a legal standpoint. There was never a debate about the idea’s acceptability, only constructive discussion on how to make it happen.

“When Stuart (Sowder) told me about phactMI™, there was interest, momentum and support from senior medical leadership at all of these different companies. My role was to loop in the legal department at each company to ensure the concept was able to move through the logistical process.”

Bakker adds that, “We were successful because of transparency between the medical leaders and the lawyers who fully understood the initiative and were part of all the decisions.”

Bakker continues: “Our first key decision was to determine the best governance and corporate structure for this organization: a joint collaboration agreement between all of the companies or a non-profit organization. We agreed to form a 501(c)(6) corporation.

“Our next decision focused on the approval process for the phactMI™ website content and any additional new content; e.g., materials to heighten awareness of the initiative. We didn’t want to slow things down, but we also needed to recognize that every company would want to have a role in reviewing the content. We also appreciated that each company has its own perspective and internal process for review, which requires compromise and negotiation.

“We ultimately nixed the idea of creating a smaller legal group that would approve content on behalf of the whole organization. Now, each member company’s lawyer receives the content and there’s a certain time period to review. This is a win for everybody without creating an impediment.”

Technology is a key enabler and continually evolves to meet stakeholder needs
The Consortium developed a search engine to make it easy for HCPs to submit a medical inquiry for products from an aggregated list of products available from phactMI™ member companies.

Jennifer Riggins shares her technological contributions to “Phase One” of the phactMI™ technology initiative. “At Lilly, my role is to create solutions that are appropriate for our business and the customers that we serve. We have to understand what the customer wants and translate that into a requirement.

“We know that HCPs don’t want to go to 25 different companies’ apps on their cell phones. With phactMI™, they can go to one resource and know that they’ll be reliably connected to the medical information that they need from any company through that single resource.”

Riggins explains that the Consortium is discussing “Phase Two” for the “portal” technology:
“HCPs want to be able to access information online; it’s part of their daily workflow. 95% of the time in the U.S. they’re starting at a search engine in order to find an answer to their questions. Therefore, it would be ideal to deliver a technologic solution that is better than some of their current options like ‘UpToDate’ (an evidence-based clinical decision support resource) or ‘eProcrates.’“

Communications are solutions-oriented and built on trust

Riggins further explains the thinking behind the rollout of the phactMI™ information portal: “Bringing together so many companies is no small task, but the impossible becomes possible when you work from a foundation of trust and open communication. That’s why the first phase of this initiative was seamless: drug company members came together with a concrete solution in mind and trusted that every phactMI™ member was primarily interested in patient care.”

Sowder continues: “In my 20-year career in the pharmaceutical industry, I have personally been involved in very few collaborations with other pharmaceutical companies, outside of co-promotes, where we really collaborated or talked through any issues together.   This degree of collaboration is just beginning to emerge within the culture of the pharmaceutical world.   Even when we’ll do a benchmarking survey at industry forums, we’re advised to do more listening than talking when we’re around other companies.   Yet our shared passion for patient care transcended this barrier.”

Patrick Reilly, also a founding member of the phactMI™ team, concurs. “Like Stuart, several of us believed it was the right thing and the right time to band together.  The Medical Information function plays a critical role across the industry in ensuring the safe and effective use of our products.  We are the best source of highly credible and relevant information, often at the point of care, to ensure the wellbeing of patients who take our medicines.”

Concludes Sowder: “We all want to make it easier for HCPs to find answers to their questions to improve patient care through informed decision-making. We’re not trying to replace anybody; we just want to make sure we’re at the top of the list when it comes to resources used when HCPs are faced with making a decision about their patient’s health.”

Riggins concurs: “Our long-term vision is to help HCPs find answers to all of their questions so they can get in, get out and get back to treating their patient.”

For more information on phactMI™ and to become a member, click here.