It is now 2021—a new year where we have an opportunity to move forward with a fresh perspective. As we continue to contend with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded that we are a resilient and resourceful species. We have adapted and accelerated health care in many ways, and it has shown us that we are indeed capable of more than we thought. The pandemic has taught us that the real world should absolutely be taken into consideration more often and earlier, when it comes to drug administration, ongoing care, and improving access. Innovators and researchers must be pragmatic in their approach, factoring in the practical impact and potential barriers to a therapy so that it can have the widest benefit for all. The articles in this issue focus on the real-world considerations for vaccines and other innovative care as well as the practical outcomes of a comprehensive clinical pathway in prostate cancer.
Although early and interim results across multiple studies have shown the potential for vaccines to successfully protect against symptomatic COVID-19, the pandemic is far from over and continues to cause health, social, and economic devastation. Despite the accelerated authorizations of the currently approved vaccines thus far, practical and logistical challenges still remain. Jason Shafrin, PhD, and colleagues assert that we must remove financial and social barriers while collaborating to expedite vaccine distribution, allowing rapid population access (page 46). To ensure that the discovery and development of new vaccines for COVID-19 and future pandemics can be sustained well into the future, we must recognize the full and holistic value they bring to patients and society, and support the innovation process. Failing to do so, they argue, will yield even more significant health, social, and economic burden.
Fueled by an ever-growing number of new, expensive drugs and other advances in technology, cancer care costs continue to rise, underscoring the need to use medical evidence as a basis for developing consensus-driven clinical care strategies. Several recent studies have demonstrated that adherence to clinical pathways can result in improved clinical outcomes, quality indicators, and more cost-effectiveness cancer care. Moffitt Cancer Center (MCC) began its own clinical pathways program in 2009 as part of a broader accountable care strategy. MCC developed a platform to measure alignment to clinical pathways by integrating relevant clinical data from various sources within the cancer center to inform clinicians and health care administrators regarding performance. In their Research Report, Karen A Sereday, MS, and coauthors present their retrospective study examining the total cost of cancer care over 1 year for patients presenting to MCC between 2015 and 2017 with newly diagnosed prostate cancer who received all of their first-line treatment at MCC. Costs were analyzed by pathway alignment as it related to risk group and treatment received (page 38).
Finally, and in line with the feature articles, the Pharma Insights column assesses how the last year has altered care delivery, access, and stakeholder collaboration but from a broader perspective. Elizabeth Oyekan, PharmD, FCSHP, CPHQ, comments on 10 trends, entrants, and developments that will contribute to the further optimization within the oncology ecosystem in 2021 and beyond (page 28).