Merck’s Weight Management Business – A Patient Centered Model
The future of healthcare dictates that in order to survive, life science companies need to figure out ways to become more patient centric. In a prior article, I equated patient centricity not with a patient-oriented digital strategy but with non-drug/device products or services that complement the therapies. These business lines take into consideration such aspects as lifestyle, culture, accessibility and convenience with the goal of optimizing the therapies’ benefit and adherence.
Many companies in our industry are actively exploring means to redefine offerings and even their corporate identity so that they are viewed as providers of “solutions” rather than treatments. No matter how much product manufacturers want to believe that a given therapy is the solution, research has kindly reminded us that a multifaceted approach is often required.
One example of a company that has made the leap beyond therapy is Merck. In December of 2013, Merck announced that they were launching a weight management business through the acquisition of Health Management Resources Corporation (HMR). HMR is a 30 year old company which according to its website is backed by research and provides diet and activity counseling through clinic and web-based support. Looking at Merck’s product portfolio which includes anti-diabetes, anti-hypertensive and lipid lowering agents and with the experimental agents for atherosclerosis and heart disease, this makes perfect sense.
The direct correlation is well known between weight loss along with the required lifestyle changes, and the various parameters treated by these agents. Therapies that treat such chronic conditions are more often than not, indicated along with diet and exercise. However, adherence with diet and exercise is commonly poor which then results in poor control of metabolic parameters thus requiring an increase in medication dose. Patients may experience poor tolerability to the elevated dose and fail to adhere to therapy.
Once more, this is why this business line makes perfect sense. In essence, for diabetes and comparable conditions, Merck is offering an integrated plan which incorporates all elements of management. Products such as Januvia lower blood glucose but effective diet and physical activity help to ensure success. Even if there is such success that the patient can eventually wean off of the medication (which really should be the goal), Merck may still have a customer as weight maintenance should be a lifetime focus.
As expected with any novel endeavor, some in the industry did not know what to make of it. The reception to Merck was in fact mixed with some indicating that it is a distraction from true innovation and others essentially dismissing it. Additionally, as HMR is still considered a subsidiary and not branded as Merck it may not quite be considered an integrated solution. It is a start though.
Snowfish will continue to follow Merck and others who are moving to a true patient-centered model. Please check for our next article which features another interesting example of corporate and product redefinition.