By Ronald L. Moy, MD, December 01, 2011
Over the last year, I, along with other members of the Academy’s leadership and senior staff, have been meeting with the senior leadership of many of our corporate supporters. These meetings have been positive and a great opportunity for us to better understand the issues and opportunities they face. They have also given us the opportunity to share key Academy strategic initiatives and identify areas of mutual interest.
One which has come up often is the current state of research in dermatology — from the research and development pipeline on the industry side to the level of involvement in both bench and post-market clinical studies among our members. We agree with our industry partners regarding the need to build and expand networks, funding, capabilities, and experience. We applaud their continued efforts to develop innovative dermatologic medications and devices. And we have a joint interest in determining how to work most effectively with the Food and Drug Administration on diverse issues including drug approvals, safety, and post-market testing and data collection.
To that end, many of our corporate supporters have expressed interest in helping members to understand what it takes to participate successfully in clinical studies so they can engage with industry in these efforts, which help lead to improved efficacy and safety for our patients. We have discussed developing research fellowships for young AAD members with some of our leading corporate supporters.
Our corporate supporters and Stephen Katz, MD, PhD, the director of the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), also said they support our efforts to develop a focused research agenda for dermatology and, subsequently, our plan to advocate aggressively for increased funding for the research the AAD, with our stakeholders and patient interest groups, determines is most important to dermatologists and their patients.[pagebreak]
We are now working actively on those efforts. The Council on Science and Research began work this summer to define the parameters of the conversation, seeking input from key stakeholders regarding areas where more research is needed. Various state and subspecialty societies within dermatology, including the Society for Investigative Dermatology, provided very specific feedback regarding the different conditions for which more research is needed and the types of research within those conditions that should be pursued. We are also requesting similar feedback from the patient groups within the specialty, reaching out to the Coalition for Skin Diseases for input.
In addition, we met with Dr. Katz on two occasions to see how the Academy could support additional research related to the skin. Dr. Katz expressed appreciation for the effort to create a research agenda and noted the need for a practice-based research network to address critical questions. He also encouraged the Academy to consider supporting researchers who do not succeed in getting NIAMS funding but who come close based on the quality of their proposals.
All of this input will culminate in a dermatology research agenda consensus conference, scheduled for June 22-23, 2012, in Washington, D.C. At the conference, we’ll bring together stakeholders from across dermatology, along with representatives of funding sources such as the various areas of the National Institutes of Health, and present them with the background research currently being assembled by our Research Agenda Workgroup, chaired by Henry W. Lim, MD.
During the conference, the participants will hone a list of conditions where more research is needed. Identifying the most important gaps in dermatologic research will be extremely useful when we meet with industry, with agencies that fund research, and with legislators as we advocate for increased funding. The existence of such a list may also help groups like the NIH and the Dermatology Foundation to target their funding to the areas where it will have the biggest impact for both physicians and patients.
A related issue that is gaining widespread attention is the number of national drug shortages being reported; the majority involve generic products. The issue is complex and there are frustrations on all sides — industry, clinicians, and regulators alike. Discussions are occurring in forums such as Congress and the AMA about the many reasons for these shortages, including manufacturing problems, company decisions to discontinue products, industry consolidation, and ingredient shortages. All of us need to work together to ensure that communications about shortages improve and effective products and treatments are available to help patients. Please contact Amanda Grimm at firstname.lastname@example.org to report a shortage in your area so that this can be relayed to the FDA. It is also important for AAD members to support companies that contribute to the specialty through new research and development.
Finally, in follow-up to my column last month regarding our communications efforts, I have appointed a Task Force on Transforming Communication to examine how to strengthen and make our public relations communications more effective and proactive.