Those that preach negativism towards pharma should read this. Nutrition is becoming mainstream in cancer prevention, therapy and survivorship.
What should you eat when you have cancer? It’s a common question from 85% of patients who want to know whether food can reduce side effects or boost their immune systems.
Enter Savor Health. The cancer nutrition company is working with pharmaceutical companies to answer this very question, and it also offers pill programs to complement their drug therapies.
Celgene partnered with Savor to “Cooking. Comfort. Nursing. “The pancreatic cancer patient program was launched several years ago, while Merck recently used Savor as part of its new head and neck disease awareness campaign run by former cancer quarterback and survivor Jim Kelly.
As drug costs rise and results-driven payer businesses multiply, drug manufacturers are moving beyond the pill with programs designed to help patients take their drugs and get the most benefit from them. In this case, the goal is to help patients and caregivers on their way through cancer treatment as comfortably and effectively as possible.
“Both Merck and Celgene came to us as cancer nutrition experts and said, ‘We’re creating programs for specific populations. Can you help us?'” Said Susan Bratton, co-founder and CEO of Savor Health, in an interview. Savor works with several other pharmaceutical companies, but they did not want to be identified.
Bratton started the company after a close friend found out he had brain cancer. When he asked his treatment team what to eat, they told him to eat whatever he wanted.
That didn’t sound right to Bratton – then a Wall Street healthcare banker – and she decided to investigate for herself. Over the course of several years, she found that diet really matters to cancer patients. When nutritional issues are addressed, clinical outcomes improve and quality of life outcomes improve, mortality and morbidity rates improve, and healthcare spending decreases, she says.
That’s quite a statement. However, Bratton points to research that concluded that “nutritional care should be integrated into global oncological care because of its significant contribution to quality of life” and that “within the categories of anatomical involvement, weight loss was associated with decreased median survival” .
She also notes specific side effects of cancer treatments and nutritional responses. Nausea and vomiting can be relieved by eating small meals often, avoiding fatty or spicy foods, eating dry foods like crackers or toast, and trying recipes with ginger. The side effects of diarrhea and possible dehydration can be reduced by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of clear liquids, eating foods rich in potassium, or foods low in pectin and soluble fiber.
While Savor is primarily aimed at pharmaceutical companies, it works directly with consumers through a dedicated food delivery service and nutritional advice service. About 40% of referrals are through oncology nurses, Bratton said. Being on the front lines with nurses and patients helps the pharma side of the business, Bratton said, as Savor directly gathers personal views from patients and caregivers that can then be applied in developing pharma-sponsored programs.
Savor Health’s focus now is cancer, but its long-term goal is to expand to other diseases, “like cardiology or diabetes, where diet has a huge impact on outcomes and costs,” Bratton said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include additional information on Savor Health’s specific nutritional research.