Podcast: From Real-World Data to Real-World Decisions

In a recent episode of the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast, Tom Robinson interviewed Aetion CEO Carolyn Magill about her unique career trajectory from the world of nuclear weapons to the world of health care, and how Aetion is partnering with organizations and companies like The New England Journal of Medicine, McLean Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, biopharma, payers, and more.

“I’ve spent about 20 years in health care,” Magill said. “I came into health care after a stint in public policy in D.C., where I thought things were a bit too esoteric. It was too hard for me to affect change in the world of nuclear weapons, as an example, not being a nuclear scientist.”

Later, Magill got into management consulting, and when she worked with a couple of health care companies, “things clicked for me.” Health care, Magill says, is tangible; it affects everybody she knows, and it’s also related to one of her other passions, public policy.

What I was most excited about [when I initially joined Aetion] and continue to be most passionate about now relates to the way we look at data, which seemed distinct from things I had done in my previous lives…in that we apply a level of scientific rigor to assessing safety, effectiveness, and value of clinical treatments,” Magill said.

In the case of Aetion, scientific rigor means transparency in the assumptions that are made, that the results of large-scale data analytics can be replicated, and what happens “if we tweak some of those assumptions” and the impact that they might have on results.

Aetion partners with organizations such as the FDA and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to look at ways to supplement clinical trials in instances like secondary indications for drugs that are on the market. “Biopharma manufacturers are licensing our platform to identify where there may be unmet clinical need,” Magill said, “and then payers and at-risk providers use our platform to figure out which medications to put on formulary.”

“It’s important to remember that at Aetion, we focus on regulatory-grade analytics,” Magill said “There’s a very high standard, a very high bar, as there should be, for what constitutes evidence.”

Aetion’s ultimate goal is to understand the safety of medications through the use of data rather than human clinical trials. For example, a biopharma manufacturer did a cardiovascular outcomes trial called CAROLINA, with thousands of patients across dozens of countries over eight years to determine whether a drug that was already on the market was safe for the population.

“Researchers on our platform were able to do the same study in a matter of weeks,” Magill said. “It’s an opportunity to understand how well medications work for specific subsets of the population through data instead of using people. It cuts all kinds of inefficiencies out of the process and can get us to very consistent results.”

For biopharma manufacturers, “the hurdle that we have to jump for them is to demonstrate that what we do is credible relative to their standard…we have a validated platform. We have validated studies that have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine, as an example, and other respected journals, so we’re pleased that our platform ‘holds water’ relative to the historic techniques the industry has used to understand safety, effectiveness, and value.”

“By advancing standards that we use about what constitutes regulatory-grade real-world data, by focusing on what it means to create real-world evidence for regulatory-type decisions, we’re able to win credibility of skeptics,” said Magill.

Listen to the full podcast here.