“Immuno-inflammatory diseases rarely make the headlines, but although they are not often life-threatening, they can be totally life-changing. The needs of people living with them are often unrecognized and their stories of daily struggles and compromises ignored,” says Ana Paula Carvalho, Regional President, International Developed Markets, Inflammation and Immunology, Pfizer.
Immunoinflammatory diseases occur when there is a malfunction in the body’s normal protective inflammatory response, causing our immune system to turn against our organs, tissues or cells.1 Covering a wide range of chronic diseases, including atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, immuno-inflammatory diseases affect around 4% of the world’s population.1 And their burden is growing, with an estimated 3-9% increase in the number of cases per year, worldwide.2
Many patients with immuno-inflammatory diseases are constantly fighting to keep them under control. These debilitating conditions are often misunderstood, making it difficult to obtain an optimal diagnosis and treatment.3 Existing treatments for some of these conditions provide symptomatic relief but, to date, there is no cure.3 Although the treatment landscapes for these diseases vary, their cyclical nature often puts patients through a “revolving door” of consultations and different treatments, with low rates of long-term complete remission.3 Patients may experience a lifelong compromise in their quality of life and psychological well-being.4 Some disorders, such as atopic dermatitis or alopecia areata (patchy hair loss), are often dismissed as cosmetic, but their impact can seem catastrophic for sufferers; and, as with all immune-inflammatory diseases, their psychological well-being, relationships, and confidence to work and engage in social activities can all be significantly affected.5.6 Some of these conditions can also negatively impact patient productivity, with people with active inflammatory bowel disease, for example, missing 12% of their work time due to the condition.seven
The need to focus on the challenges of these underserved patients is long overdue. At Pfizer, we continue to engage in research and development in immunology and inflammation, with one of the broadest pipelines in the industry, knowing that extraordinary breakthroughs are now within reach. We work hard to develop treatments and tools to alleviate the distress and disruption of these diseases. To accelerate the translation of science into tangible solutions for patients, we recently acquired Arena Pharmaceuticals, a clinical-stage company developing potential therapies for several immune-inflammatory diseases.
“In our efforts to transform the lives of patients, it is important to look beyond the pill, to find ways to understand, raise awareness and address the challenges they face. For example, Pfizer is exploring digital innovations, such as wearable solutions, to help scientists monitor symptoms so they can understand and demonstrate the impact of disease,” says Carvalho.
“To improve the quality of life of these patients, it is essential that the entire healthcare community works together. No single organization or domain can bring about substantial change, but working together, we can revolutionize the care patients receive. Initiatives that build consensus on best practices, with each of us playing our part in supporting its delivery, can lead to more holistic and standardized care and treatment pathways – steps that can dramatically improve patient outcomes,” suggests Carvalho.
Stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers, must continue to work together to improve our understanding of each of these diseases and come up with new effective solutions. Advances in science have led to the arrival of additional treatment options, but access remains limited and, for some of these conditions, older treatments remain the mainstay despite some limitations.8 Helping policymakers and payers understand the enormous toll of immunoinflammatory diseases and the potential value of innovations in this area could encourage the creation of policies and decisions that pave the way for the provision of greater many of these innovations – enabling us to make progress on reducing barriers to access and inequities, and crucially improving the quality of life of those who suffer from these diseases.
Collaboration between people with the relevant expertise can be a catalyst for innovation, as we have demonstrated alongside our partners. Pfizer has worked with Sidekick Health on a digital health solution, available in select markets, to help patients understand their condition and the impact of lifestyle choices on their symptoms, helping them make more informed choices.
There is more power in the collective, and Pfizer is proud to be part of the Global Dermatology Coalition. This multi-stakeholder, patient-led group formed to advocate with the World Health Organization and other policy makers around the world to elevate healthcare prioritization for skin diseases. The group is focused on improving patient outcomes globally by raising awareness of the heavy and multifaceted impacts of dermatological conditions, including pain, disfigurement, disability and stigma, as well as comorbidities and psychological burdens. , social and financial.
The potential to help people with immune-inflammatory diseases thrive in remission and get back the things they love is abundant if stakeholders, including industry, health systems, policy and decision makers, unite around a common goal.
 National Stem Cell Foundation. Autoimmune disease. Available at: https://nationalstemcellfoundation.org/glossary/autoimmune-disease/. Accessed June 2022.
 The Guardian. Global spread of autoimmune diseases blamed on Western diet. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/jan/08/global-spread-of-autoimmune-disease-blamed-on-western-diet. Accessed June 2022.
 Cleveland Clinic. Autoimmune diseases. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21624-autoimmune-diseases. Accessed June 2022.
 Corsetti MT, et al. Psychological distress and quality of life are improved in autoimmune patients with tandem psychotherapy, combining individual hypnosis and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment for trauma, followed by expressive supportive group therapy. Clin Rhumatol. 2020; 39(4):1331-1339.
 Gochnauer H, et al. The psychosocial impact of atopic dermatitis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1027:57-69.
 Aldhouse NVJ, et al. “’You’re losing your hair, what’s the problem?’ I was so embarrassed, I was so embarrassed, I was so depressed:” a qualitative interview study to understand the psychosocial burden of alopecia areata. J Patient Representative Results. 2020;4(1):76.
 European Federation of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Associations. World IBD Day 2020. Available at: https://www.efcca.org/en/projects/world-ibd-day-2020#costs. Accessed June 2022.
 LiP, et al. Drugs for autoimmune inflammatory diseases: from small molecule compounds to anti-TNF biologics. Before Pharmacol. 2017; 8:460.