For patients with rare diseases whose quality of life depends on infusion medicines, travel can present enormous challenges.
Improving patient access to medicines is a key tenant in Shire’s responsibility platform, a commitment Shire makes to patients all around the world. In May 2013, on the heels of an in-depth project designed to ensure that Shire patients received their Shire medicines as quickly as possible, Brian Strawn, who heads Launch Planning for Tech Ops, was invited to help solve a related problem—how to provide traveling Shire patients with access to their rare disease therapies wherever they may go.
Patients may be traveling for five days, sometimes for many more. They may be journeying to countries that don’t have established systems for the drug’s administration. Whatever the case, Strawn and a global multidisciplinary team were committed to facilitating these patients’ access to what they need, while never losing sight of appropriate policies and procedures for the distribution and importation of medicines.
“Anyone can move a medicine from one location to another, but doing that while respecting regulatory requirements, import tax issues, and distribution systems takes time.”
Brian Strawn, Head of Technical Operations and Launch Planning
Nearly twenty Shire patients have benefited from a now well-established process that was put in place at the end of last year.
The program involves, among other things, identifying patient organizations that can help the patient with the overall process of traveling outside of their home country such as identifying a center and a physician equipped to manage their condition and drug administration; identifying the best way to get the drug to the destination country while guaranteeing the integrity of these often temperature-specific products; and assisting with reimbursement of both the medication and the infusion cost.
“Every situation is unique,” says Strawn. “We’ve worked hard to communicate the process to our colleagues within Shire and to caregivers and patient organizations. We stress, among other things, the importance of acting quickly. Making arrangements in destination countries is a complex process. Anyone can move a medicine from one location to another, but doing that while respecting regulatory requirements, import tax issues, and distribution systems—all while building a bridge between treating physicians in the home country and destination country physicians—takes time. The more advance notice we have, the more we can do for our patients.”
And that, in the end, is what it’s all about, always—doing as much as can be done for patients. “Because it is important to their health that they receive their medication without interruption, it is crucial to us that we help them find a way,” says Strawn.