Glaucoma affects approximately 76 million people around the world*1 and is the leading cause of blindness in Japan. Since launching a treatment for glaucoma in 1981, Santen has expanded its lineup of glaucoma-related products and services, while expanding its contribution to the entire treatment process—from awareness raising efforts that promotes early detection and treatment of glaucoma to the promotion for continued treatment.
In this article, we introduce the challenges of Santen's Japan Business, which has been working to respond to the needs of patients and health care providers and deliver added value.
*1 World report on vision. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO
Glaucoma is a condition that causes gradual loss of vision. Although its progression can be slowed by lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) via medication or surgery, continued treatment is required throughout the patient's life. The continuation of application of eye drops in adherence with the prescribed dosage and administration is essential to reduce the progression of symptoms.
Since patients administer eye drops themselves, it is also important that the treatment causes as little stress and burden as possible to the patients in their daily lives. Despite this, because glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages, many patients discontinue treatment due to side effects from the medication, the hassle of administering eye drops, or the burden of making repeated visits to a doctor.
To solve these treatment challenges, Japan Business at Santen efforts to further enhance the market's understanding of Santen product's value, and improve patient's continuance of treatment through communication tool for health care professionals. This is based on our commitment to protect the vision of glaucoma patients, which should be achieved by ensuring that all stakeholders related to glaucoma treatment think from the patient's perspective, and encourage continued and appropriate treatment.
A team manager, Glaucoma team, Japan Business explained the commitments and initiatives to glaucoma patients.
In Japan, doctors typically determine the treatment plan for glaucoma based on criteria such as the patient’s intraocular pressure, regular visual field tests, and evaluated effectiveness of respective treatments. Patients generally follow the directions given by their physician. However, a survey Santen conducted with non-glaucoma patients in Japan had found that more than 70% of participants expressed their desire to be involved in the discussion of treatment plan if they were to be diagnosed with glaucoma. This suggested that the patient’s interest in the treatment process which would build trust and satisfaction towards their doctors and treatment, could improve their continuance of treatment and visits to their doctors. Studies outside Japan have also shown that side effects of medications and dissatisfaction with the prescribed treatment correlate significantly with a lower visual field survival rate in patients.
In order to create an environment in which patients feel satisfied with the course of treatment that is set and participate actively in their treatment plans, we developed a communication tool in 2019. The tool is used by doctors to explain the relevant symptoms and related medications to patients who have been diagnosed with glaucoma. The objective of the kit is to help patients correctly understand glaucoma, increase their interests of a treatment plan, and participate in treatment with satisfaction and a positive mindset towards the determined course of action, which will ultimately lead to improved treatment continuity. This tool has helped doctors gain new awareness of their patients' needs, and it has in fact lead to higher treatment continuation rates. We have seen steady results, with many doctors and medical staff expressing their appreciation, and by being mentioned in glaucoma specialist's paper etc.
In addition to this tool, we are currently promoting glaucoma treatment through another approach, which was developed in 2017 to encourage continuation of treatment. Establishing new processes that engage the busy medical professionals is not an easy task, but the strong relationships that our medical representatives’ continued communication and engagement activities have increased empathy among health care professionals and led to a shift in the patients' behavior and attitude toward glaucoma treatment.
Ensuring glaucoma patient's continuation of treatment could be a common issue abroad as well and there are many other unmet needs in clinical practice, not only for glaucoma, but also for other conditions too. We will continue refining our products and services to meet an even greater range of needs to realize Happiness with Vision. As we strive to do so, we will also challenge ourselves to deliver value beyond the boundaries of our business and region.