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Stakeholder Capitalism: Q&A with Meg Alexander, Chief Strategy Officer at Ovid Therapeutics (Part 2)


Alexander continues her conversation, touching on topics like disinformation and diversity in clinical trials.

Meg Alexander

Meg Alexander
Chief strategy officer
Ovid Therapeutics

This is the second part of an interview with Meg Alexander, chief strategy officer at Ovid Therapeutics. She continues her conversation about stakeholder capitalism and how she’s working to improve the life sciences industry.

Part one of this interview can be found here.

Pharmaceutical Executive: Does DE&I play a role in your work?
Meg Alexander: It does. Most of us got into this profession because, like I said, we want to make people live longer and better. A big piece of that is addressing inequity and inequality. Not only does DE&I breed a diversity in background and experience, but it also breeds diversity of thinking and better teams. I think I’m like minded with my colleagues in the biopharmaceutical industry.

The reality is that the make-up of our employee base is small, but every company is made of a tapestry. If you don’t consider the context in which our employees are living in and patient families are living in, then we are missing extremely important considerations to our business.

PE: How important is diversity in clinical trials?
Alexander: We over indexed hard and worked closely with patient index groups to ensure both access to clinical trials and the diverse impact. Coming back to the fundamental question of how we are choosing certain topics, when you think about diversity in clinical trials and some of the barriers to that, trust is important. There’s data that can be discouraging. Less than half of people in ten different countries trust executives from our industry about healthcare information.

Translate what that means to clinical trial recruitment. Part of that is being seen as voice in trying to address the topics that matter to our constituents, patients, caregivers, and physicians. If you look at the data on a whole range of different topics, 60-70% of society in 10 different countries around the world want to see us engage on these topics that matter. This includes social justice, inequity, climate change, and others. This is not me making this up, this is what the data shows.

We’re an evidence-based industry. This is one case where we use data to make decision in our companies, and the data is telling us that society wants us to engage. People want us to engage. We’re taking a step back and looking beyond the tactical execution of some of these challenges that are extremely important to patient communities, there’s a higher ordered discussion of trust that we’re trying to address. It’s essential for our ability to operate and be effective.

When we’re not trustworthy, we start to see things like the IRA. That’s not because companies aren’t trustworthy, but communicating is part of the key.

PE: How can the industry combat disinformation?
Anderson: It’s hard, we’re living in incredibly polarized times. Leaders are going to be tested more now than perhaps they’ve ever been, and they can’t do it alone. When I think about what needs to happen and some of the polarization that leads to misinformation, this is a situation where we need to work above and below across all sectors of society. Again, if you look at the data, 70% of the populace across multiple countries showed that they want companies like us to help build better trust in the healthcare system.

We need to work there. We need to work with policy makers and federal administrators. But that’s not enough.

When you’re talking about things like clinical trial diversity and trust in medicine and vaccines, we need to work at all levels of society. It’s harder than it’s been before. We have evidence and the right intent, which is to help protect health. That means working at all levels: state governments, non-state actors, working with more cultural translators and communicators. I think Pfizer did a neat job when they started to bring in people like Martha Stewart and other known celebrities and influencers into their education about the vaccine.

Knowing that we might not always be the most persuasive voice to the populace, we need to look at who is and try to use them to the benefit of the public’s health. It’s an incredibly hard time to do this. Unfortunately, with media today, it’s too easy for us to self-curate what we want to see versus a full preponderance of the information that may be available.

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