Approximately 8 million people in the U.S. live with psoriasis, and despite clinical and scientific advances, tremendous unmet needs remain in these communities. For example, the journey to a diagnosis and treatment can be challenging and few patients achieve remission, the ultimate goal of treatment.
DocWire News spoke with Daphne Chan, PhD, Medical Affairs, Janssen Dermatology, and Anthony Fernandez, VP of Sales and Marketing for Dermatology and Rheumatology, about the company’s focus on innovation and addressing unmet needs among patients with psoriasis.
DocWire News: Can you provide us with some background on yourselves?
Daphne Chan: So, I’m Daphne Chan. I am a clinical pharmacologist by training and I came from academia to Janssen over 17 years ago, have worked on both sides of med affairs and R&D. And for the past 10 years, I was exclusively in clinical R&D, leading late phase development programs of various assets. Over the years, I have had the pleasure and experience to work across most, if not all, of the J&J therapeutic areas, but my concentration has been in immunology, so across dermatology, GI, and rheumatology. And in my current role as the head of the dermatology medical affairs team, I lead a team of physicians and scientists, mainly focused on three areas of lines of work, plus a lot of miscellaneous work. So we conduct additional studies for line extension indications, post marketing studies, real world evidence studies for our approved assets, and we inform our development programs of our pipeline.
And we also, obviously, lead and in support of Anthony’s and other stakeholder groups at Janssen, many various medical education activities that are conducted by our medical and non-medical teams. Since today, we’ll be talking about psoriasis, I just want to share that it’s been humbling as an experience to have been in and out of the psoriatic space. My first contribution to the space was many years ago, actually. 2007 was when I started in this field. And I was the launch leader for Janssen Canada, med affairs lead for the launch of Stelara for its first indication in psoriasis. And that was a big deal. It was the first breakthrough after a long era of TNF, which we actually led in introducing the first asset and subsequently transition to global R&D to continue doing this, and many other assets. When I pass it on to Anthony, I just want to say that we’ve definitely come very, very far as a company and my personal professional journey and trying to advance care for patients with psoriatic disease. Yeah. Anthony.
Anthony Fernandez: Thank you very much, Daphne, and very nice to meet you and get a chance to speak with you, Rob. My name is Anthony Fernandez and I serve as vice president of sales and marketing for both rheumatology and dermatology. And in this role, I have the privilege of leading our broader commercial organization, marketing and sales in advancing our mission of relentlessly advancing care, specifically in those areas of rheumatology and dermatology, which share a common link with psoriatic arthritis. And I know we’re going to have a lot of great discussion today about a specific area of clinical unmet need, patient journey unmet need in plaque psoriasis. So really looking forward to engaging in that conversation. I’ve been with J&J for 17 years. And I can tell, and you’ll tell just by this intro, I’m a lot less credentialed and accomplished than my counterpart Daphne.
I’ve been in multiple therapeutic areas during my tenure with J&J mainly in hematology oncology, infectious diseases. I’ve spent some time in our diagnostics business as well, part of the broader J&J enterprise, and have spent a total of roughly four years in the broader immunology space focused on rheumatology and this last roughly year and a half in the dermatology arena. Again, focused on relentlessly advancing care for the 8 million plaque psoriasis sufferers in the U.S. marketplace. And a lot of what Daphne talked about in terms of the advances that we’re making on the scientific side, we’re also pushing forward with relentless vigor on the commercial side to really support patients in hyper-complex treatment journeys that all of them face, especially in today’s market environment. There’s so many more complexities and unmet needs that we have the opportunity to address as Janssen immunology. And it’s really exciting to partner with medical organization, with research and development, and really show up as one Janssen that way. So looking forward to the conversation.
What are the main challenges faced by patients living with plaque psoriasis?
Daphne Chan: So patients with psoriasis face a lot of issues one namely is, are the products safe? Are the products effective? Do they have to choose one from the other? And if they are successful in attaining disease resolution with initial treatment, is that effect going to last? So over the 20 years that we’ve been working in this space and very proud to say Janssen and our predecessor, Centocor, which has developed and launched our first monoclonal antibody, Remicade infliximab, and subsequently under Janssen would develop Stelara and Tremfya. We have relentlessly advanced the bar as with other sponsors in this space to make sure that we continue to develop newer novel therapies, that target pathways that will achieve these higher and higher and higher efficacy bars. But then hopefully, I don’t want to say we lower and remove safety concerns because that’s not possible in medicine, but I think we’ve achieve a pretty solid handle on balancing an appropriate safety and efficacy ratio, benefit risk ratio for our patients.
And so for the psoriatic patients, I think getting that safe, effective medicine that will last for a very long time for them is very reassuring thing to know and in a chronic condition as such, they need to know that they can be on a product for a very long time. And then if they so unfortunately fail on one, they have another one in the next in line that they can have. So I guess having been part of this journey for our two products and part of the last old one a little bit, it’s really great and grateful to see that how we have contributed directly to helping patients face their challenges. Yeah.
Are there any data you can report on that support the efficacy of your dermatology portfolio?
Daphne Chan: Yeah, absolutely. So for Tremfya, at least 7 out of 10 patients, or 8 out of 10 patients, depending on the benchmark we look at, will achieve 90% clearer skin or 8 of 10 achieve clear, or almost clear your skin. And this is efficacy that has been measured up to five years and it lasts. So the durable efficacy paired with the appropriate benefit risk profile with a very established safety profile over five years has been tremendous for our patients. Yeah, being the first IL-23 inhibitor to launch for Tremfya in this space, it’s a very good contribution that we’ve made in this field for our patients.
Talk to us about the recent ad campaign you launched, and how it can benefit psoriasis patients.
Anthony Fernandez: Yeah. So happy that you asked about that, Rob. Emerge Tremfyant is actually a flagship campaign, not just for Janssen immunology, but as we look more broadly across our pharmaceutical organization and at the enterprise level with Johnson & Johnson. And the reason I say that is because we’ve been able with that campaign to really tap into some unique insight about how patients suffer with this chronic state of plaque psoriasis. It also has elements of psoriatic arthritis in the campaign, but I’ll focus on plaque psoriasis. And what we learned in the development of that campaign is that there was a big opportunity for manufacturers to depict, articulate, and truly understand what patients go through: the itching, the burning, the stinging, and spending a little bit more time going deep to make that emotional connection on the problem of plaque psoriasis rather than just the solution.
So we actually, we were really reassured by our efforts in gathering insight directly from patients, from caregivers, from care teams about how we could more emotionally connect with patients through a campaign like this. And the feedback that we’ve received in the marketplace has been nothing short of outstanding. It has been really proud work across, like I said, not only our immunology business, but also across a broader frame of reference. And it is a campaign that has been awarded at the industry level beyond the therapeutic area of immunology and really looking across so many different therapeutic areas in terms of how well it depicts some of the challenges that are faced by patients and the unmet need that still exists before just jumping straight to, “Hey, we have a great solution.”
As Daphne depicted and articulated so well, we have a very effective way of addressing many of these challenges, but it’s important for us to really establish that emotional connection with patients and really draw the audience in to understand exactly what psoriasis can do before just getting straight to the solution. So we were really happy in how everything materialized with the emerge tremfyant campaign.
What are some key takeaways you want to leave us with today?
Daphne Chan: I think one message, or one commitment shall I say, and I think Anthony indicated our relentlessly advancing care approach and focus, it’s real. Because after 20 years, you may wonder, is there still anything left to do? And I think our answer is yes, there is actually a ton more to do and shockingly a lot more. So I think what our commitment is for the patients is we will continue to generate additional evidence from our completed studies to continue to inform practice with data and with science. And in addition, we are also looking to conduct hopefully additional studies to continue to evaluate the longevity of our products’ impact lives by looking at different dimensions of the disease. So new data and new studies is what we’re going to be committing to. And of course we are an innovative company. We are going to continue obviously investing into pipeline development of new assets of the same pathway or different pathways to continue contributing to new products, new drugs in the market.
Anthony Fernandez: Yeah, and just building on that, Daphne, totally agree. And what Daphne, I think, highlighted very well is the commitment that we have to really advancing the science under this mission of relentlessly advancing care. One thing I’ll just remark on with this relentlessly advancing care mission, what really resonates with us as an organization is that autoimmune diseases like plaque psoriasis, like we’re talking about here, are truly relentless on patients. We hear that time and time again, that it’s a relentless foe that they face, right? Their caregivers, care teams in general, it is a relentless enemy. And we as Janssen immunology need to live into that level of relentless commitment. And that’s why that word resonates so much with us. So Daphne just outlined how well we do that in terms of advancing the science, but beyond advancing the science, there are ways in which we’re relentlessly committed to addressing unmet patient need on the non R&D front or non-scientific front.
And what I would say is a big pillar of that are the advancements that we’re making and investments we’re continuing to make in patient support programs. So we know that patient journeys are more and more complex. I alluded to this earlier, so we’re continuing to evolve our patient support program offering to offer one-on-one support through qualified healthcare professionals directly to patients. These are patient guides that are all offered under the Tremfya with me program that has recently launched into the marketplace. Cost support, reminders, injection training, and more holistic support to really ensure that patients can navigate the complexities of their journey beyond the treatment itself. And there certainly is a number of opportunities that lie ahead in research and development and addressing that advancement of the science. But we also recognize that the challenges are right here in front of us in addressing some of these patient support needs in their journeys.
So I would certainly add that part in. I would also say that we’ve done, I think, a nice job as Janssen thinking broadly about all the contributors and stakeholders to advancing care. And I’m proud to say that we’ve recently established as an official holiday in the U.S., the National Biologics Coordinators Day, which is actually November 1st. And we know that biologic coordinators are sometimes the unsung heroes of connecting patients with effective treatments. And we wanted to be more bold and explicit about recognizing their contributions, so that’s part of our relentlessly advancing care commitment is ensuring that we’re looking broadly across the HCP or healthcare professional landscape and recognizing all of those who play a critical role.