After her close friend, Eric’s, cancer diagnosis, Susan Bratton watched her friend struggle with mouth sores that made eating so difficult his family and friends were at a loss for what to do. He was sadly taken by cancer after only five months. This was the turning point for Susan, who is now the Founder and CEO of Savor Health.
For many patients, the effects of cancer and cancer treatments make it hard to eat well. But eating well is vital to maintaining healthy body weight, strength, keeping body tissue healthy, and reducing side effects both during and after treatment. After watching her friend, Eric, lose his battle with cancer, Susan left her Wall Street job and spent two years researching nutrition and cancer, and armed with the results, launched Savor Health. The company is focused on helping patients take control of their nutrition and stay strong in their fight against cancer. Deploying nutritional insights, counseling and prepared meals, their comprehensive approach is helping cancer patients achieve optimal nutrition. Since Savor was one of the standout companies at last year's BioPharm America start up competition, we spoke to Susan to check in on the company's progress.
As the first runner-up for “Best Pitch" at BioPharm America 2017's startup competition, what notable milestones have you achieved this past year?
Since the BioPharm America conference in September 2017, we have achieved a number of important milestones. We have successfully renewed and expanded all of our pharmaceutical company contracts as well as added new ones that will be coming on line in the third quarter of 2018. We have expanded into the employer and the payer channels which was a goal of 2018. We were invited, out of over 300 applicants, to present to the Employer Health Innovation Roundtable in March 2018. Additionally, we have been invited to speak at a number of industry conferences about the business itself, as well as why personalized nutrition is so important to people with chronic medical conditions.
What goes into personalizing nutrition plans for a patient?
The most important thing about personalizing nutrition plans is really understanding what the patient wants AND needs. If you address only the “need” it is hard to successfully help a patient eat again or eat well because you haven't addressed the “want.” And vice versa—if you address the “want” then oftentimes you are not addressing the important clinical “need.” In both cases, behavioral change is nearly impossible. Additionally, it is essential that the recommendations be based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices in order to be both safe and effective.
For cancer patients, the research shows that better patient nutrition improves treatment adherence, tolerance, and outcomes, and reduces treatment cost, toxicity and complication rates. Given this fact, how come nutrition is not part of the standard of care for cancer patients? And, how is Savor Health helping to solve this issue?
There are a few reasons for this. The first is that nutrition is not generally taught in medical school. If it is taught, the focus is on metabolic disorders primarily. As such, doctors do not really know a lot about nutrition and are not really comfortable recommending nutritional interventions and advice. Add to this the fact that there are a lot of quacks in the nutrition field that promises false cures and do not rely on evidence-based science. They often recommend ineffective or even dangerous diets and interventions.
This field of “quackery science” in nutrition does a huge disservice to those who are legitimate and they are another reason why doctors are skeptical of nutrition and nervous about making nutritional recommendations. Another issue is that there is a shortage of oncology-credentialed registered dietitians. As a result, patients often cannot get access to the nutritional support they need.
Finally, at the moment there is no nutrition reimbursement code for people with cancer. We are addressing the cost and access issues by working with leading pharmaceutical companies to offer free or low-cost, evidence-based nutritional support and engagement programs to patients on a branded and unbranded basis. Pharmaceutical companies are committed to helping support patients' holistic needs. Nutrition and nutritional “beyond the pill” digital solutions that help empower patients with safe, effective nutrition support and advice is something they are very interested in. As well, we are working closely with industry leaders including the Institute of Medicine and the American Institute for Cancer Research to help develop solutions that address the cost and access barriers to nutrition. Finally, Savor Health is adhering to evidence-based science and clinical best practices in order to gain the trust of the medical community and to build awareness of our responsible, scientific approach to personalized nutrition that also extends to educational programs we are developing.
What is your five-year vision for Savor Health?
My vision for Savor Health in five years is to offer clinically appropriate, highly personalized nutritional solutions to not only people with cancer but patients in other therapeutic areas including autoimmune and cardiovascular disease because these two areas represent very high-cost areas for large employers and payers, and the pharmaceutical companies with drugs on the market or in the pipeline in these two areas are committed to “beyond the pill” solutions that will improve adherence and compliance of patients using these therapies. We intend to be serving customers in all three therapeutic areas and the three distribution channels of pharma, employer, and payer.