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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Australian Pharma’s proactive measures in response to COVID-19

Health Industry Hub | March 23, 2020 |
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Pharma News: In light of the global outbreak of COVID-19, many Australian Pharma organisations have been confronted with the human and social issue necessitating significant changes in the way employees go about their daily tasks.

As efforts are underway to manage the spread across Australia, a number of Pharma companies told Health Industry Hub the proactive measures taken to flatten the curve and keep employees safe. Some of these organisations are also contributing to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Australian Pharma Workplace Response

GSK has taken steps to support healthcare facilities and safeguard the health and wellbeing of patients, employees and the wider Australian community. “The welfare of our people is a key priority and we are taking all recommended steps to support and protect them, in line with government guidance. Across Australia, we have made the decision to pause all face-to-face meetings and move to virtual ways of working using telephone, digital technology and online engagement.” said a company spokesperson.

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MSD is currently encouraging staff to work from home and staff who are in the office are practising social distancing by adding extra space between workstations and limiting the maximum numbers of people in meeting rooms. The organisation is releasing online development options for staff to ensure their professional and personal developments continues, and the Employee Assistance Program is available to staff and their families if extra support is needed.

The company statement from BMS on the pandemic confirms that the organisation suspended in-person interactions by the customer-facing personnel in healthcare settings. Their fieldforce have moved to a remote engagement model to ensure continued support for healthcare professionals, patient care and access to medicines.

Bayer asked all Pharma representatives in the field to work remotely and not to conduct face-to-face meetings in clinics or hospitals for the foreseeable future. The organisation also supports voluntary remote working for office-based employees.

As of 16 March, all Roche customer facing employees were advised to conduct all business virtually and no longer hold face to face meetings with healthcare professionals and other stakeholders. From 23 March, all office-based employees will be working from home in line with social distancing recommendations.

“Supporting the mental health of our employees has, and will continue to be, incredibly important for us through this. Our usual yoga and meditation sessions will be offered virtually for employees and we are encouraging virtual lunches and sharing platforms.” added a Roche spokesperson.

Sanofi’s field-based employees, including those who usually attend frontline health services, and most of the office teams are now working from home. Sanofi’s manufacturing facility in Brisbane is still open with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

As of 17 March, AstraZeneca temporarily suspended sales and medical teams from engaging in face to face interactions with healthcare professionals. To ensure AZ’s focus on patients the organisation is in contact with patient organisations to understand how they can be of support during these uncertain times.

Scientific Contributions in the Search for COVID-19 Vaccine

Sanofi has started a clinical program evaluating Kevzara (sarilumab) in patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 to evaluate how Kevzara may be a potential treatment option for some patients. Sanofi is also willing to work with local health authorities and scientific experts in countries impacted by the outbreak in order to investigate the patient benefit/risk profile of Plaquenil in the treatment of COVID-19.

One of the most significant contributions GSK is making is supplying their vaccine adjuvant technology to scientists and organisations working on candidate vaccines, including those at the University of Queensland.

Roche is working with the FDA to initiate a Phase III clinical trial of Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) in hospitalised patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. This is the first global study of Actemra/RoActemra in this setting and is expected to begin enrolling as soon as possible in early April.

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