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#Doctors20: Patient Opinion Leaders

The first session I attended on Day 1 at the Doctors 2.0 and You conference was Patient Opinion Leaders + Pharma. Denise Silber moderated the session. The speakers were –

  • Seth Ginsberg (@creakyjoints). Seth is cofounder of CreakyJoints, an online patient community for those with arthritis. Seth was diagnosed with spondyloarthritis at age 13. More about Seth here.
  • Andrew Schorr (@andrewschorr). Andrew is a medical journalist who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He is the founder of and More about Andrew here.
  • Nuria Zuniga (@TuLupus). Nuria was diagnosed with lupus at age 14. Nuria blogs at She was given a travel scholarship by the Society of Preventive Medicine to attend the conference. Read her qualifying essay on why she wanted to come to Doctors 2.0 here.

I chose this session because I wanted to know more about patient opinion leaders. Adding pharma to the mix made it even more interesting. I reviewed my tweets for this session.

Denise as moderator opened with this –

I was all ears! Seth had this to say –

I must admit that idea had not occurred to me before. Perhaps naively as a doctor, I just assumed that doctors knew more about the medicine than its manufacturer. And that patients should ask their doctor about the medicine and not the drug company. But I guess the point Seth was making was that nothing can stop a patient from asking a drug company directly about a drug a patient is taking. And for check and balance, verify with other experts like the medical advisory board. I know that many doctors rely on drug reps to get drug information. Doctors would be wise as well to verify these information from other independent sources.

Andrew observes that pharma companies connect now with patient organizations, but he also raises a valid point that many patients out there do not belong to any organization.

Andrew also called for more pharmaceutical support for patients. In Manila, I see drug companies extending support to patients in terms of reduced drug prices with coupons or free pills for purchases like a 5+1 deal. Andrew himself mentioned that he was on treatment for myelofibrosis that cost $100,000 a year.

I was very moved by Nuria’s presentation. So enrapt was I listening to her, that reviewing my feed now I only have a couple of tweets about it.


I needed to use Google Translate but her blog post before coming to Doctors 2.0 summarizes some points in her talk. She told us how she joined Twitter to express her feelings about her lupus diagnosis and how this led to people asking her questions about this that she ended up blogging to answer them. She made an impassioned plea for pharma companies to help patients like her even if their drug is not necessarily for lupus but is being used by those with lupus (off label use).

Here’s Nuria with Alan (@alanroygbiv). Picture from Nuria’s tweet.


At the end of this meeting, Alan, a patient himself living with ataxia encouraged our patient opinion leaders when he said –


Seth also made a valid point on the flow of information for drug recall. He was talking about a recall of a batch of methotrexate that had glass shards.

CGpeEVuW8AAjcjCPhoto from @alanroygbiv         


I had an experience before with one clinic that still had paper-based records. When I got a letter from the drug company saying that so-and-so drug will no longer be marketed, I struggled to find the patients who were on this drug. It was difficult since the clinic at the time didn’t have an EMR. Some patients only got in touch with me when they had run out of medication and couldn’t get a refill from the pharmacy. Thankfully, none of them suffered any adverse events for the short period they were off medication. So I can understand Seth’s point about directly communicating with patients. There was a lawyer in the audience and at one point it was raised that there are legal restrictions preventing pharma companies from talking with patients. Paul thinks otherwise.  

Dr. Carlo Caballero raised an interesting issue –

At which point, Denise asked the three speakers for their disclosures. 🙂 In the end, I agree with Carlo –

What’s the situation in the Philippines?

Just a few weeks before leaving Manila to attend this conference was the first time I had heard of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO). This organization held the first Philippine Patients Conference last May. The conference output was a Patient Manifesto, which summarized three priority areas:

  1. All health agencies and facilities must have a patient desk to help navigate patients’ concerns.
  2. PAPO representation in the Philhealth board to serve as the patients’ voice
  3. A holistic approach to healing by including psychosocial support in the provision of care in all hospitals

It seems that engaging with the pharmaceutical industry is not a priority for PAPO yet. But it is clear that everywhere in the world, patients want to be heard.

4 thoughts on “#Doctors20: Patient Opinion Leaders”

  1. Thanks for such a nice article, Iris!!! LOved meeting you at #Doctors20 and hope to see you again next year!
    Keep up with such a tremendous work. I can tell you how good it feels to find such a refreshing and high quality blog like yours with info patients can trust.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Nuria! It was lovely meeting you too. Wish you the best always in your work.

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