Many people know that the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. But what is often not known is that cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and blood vessels, is the leading cause of death in the world today. Boehringer Ingelheim and its partners have therefore taken up the challenge of improving the lives of people living with cardiovascular diseases.

The World Heart Federation (WHF) works to prevent premature cardiovascular deaths and improve access to treatment. Jean-Luc Eiselé has been leading the WHF since May 2017. In this interview, he discusses the importance of partnerships for the mission of his organization.

Why is heart health such an important topic?

Eiselé: Heart disease is the leading cause of death, claiming nearly 18 million lives annually. We know that up to 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are preventable.

To strengthen heart health worldwide is a common goal of the World Heart Federation and the alliance between Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company. How can we achieve this together?

Eiselé: Partnerships can save millions of lives every year by enhancing our ability to raise awareness. Together with the Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance, we have been able to successfully strengthen heart health for those people living with and without diabetes through education initiatives such as World Heart Day (WHD) since 2019.

On WHD, thousands of people from around the world unite to spread awareness of heart health. Together with the Alliance, we were able to reach more than 425 million people, who are diagnosed with diabetes, on WHD 2020. Under the slogan “Use Heart”, we informed them about the link with cardiovascular diseases while explaining to them the need to protect their hearts to live longer, healthier lives. Furthermore, it is estimated that nearly 215 million people are living undiagnosed with diabetes. Therefore, partnerships like the one with the Alliance are key to educating people with and without diabetes to visit their health care professionals and start striving for a healthy heart today.

How do you assess the importance of partnerships like the one with the Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance for the World Heart Federation?

Eiselé: Partnerships are crucial to expanding the reach of the WHF and thereby have a greater impact in the reduction of cardiovascular disease mortality through awareness and prevention.

To date, our partnership with the Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance has enabled us to share more patient stories and inspire the over two billion people following WHD. Furthermore, teaming up with the Alliance has enabled us to conduct roundtables around the WHF Roadmap on CVD and diabetes. These roundtables bring together health professionals, government representatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and industry to ensure a holistic, patient-centric approach that takes into account the specificity of national health systems.

“In Human Pharma at Boehringer Ingelheim, we strive to deliver innovative therapies that transform patients ̓ lives. We embrace the power of partnerships, the creativity of our people, and the diversity of minds.”
Carinne Brouillon
Member of the Board of Managing Directors Human Pharma
Do you think it is important to involve patients in research on heart failure and diabetes and if yes, why?

Eiselé: Patients and their heart health are at the center of our efforts and the reason the WHF exists. We work regularly with patient groups and we engage them in both diabetes and heart failure research and campaigns. We are currently embarking on a journey to lead an unprecedented collaborative effort with the pharmaceutical industry on diabetes control and prevention. We focus on communications, awareness raising, and de-stigmatization. We believe that it is time for a concerted effort to tackle diabetes as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and COVID-19.

Patients and at-risk individuals are at the heart of every initiative to reach our vision of heart health for everyone. Our work is evidence-based but story-driven, and without patients there are no stories and no progress.

If you think about a leadership mindset, what do you see as a necessary “superpower” for organizations like the World Heart Federation and their partners in order to be prepared for the future?

Eiselé: We need to be agile, innovative, and able to inspire others. Our strong network and overall success are built on our credibility as an evidence-based global organization and our ability to adapt to evolving science. We collaborate with partners like the Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance because of their leadership and innovation. This paves the way for others to join our important mission.

What do you enjoy most about your work as the CEO of the World Heart Federation?

Eiselé: The heart is the first sign of life and the only organ we can hear and feel. It is easy to get passionate about it, but it is not easy to make a real difference for millions of people. Yet, this is the part that inspires me the most. To unite a wide variety of organizations and companies with sometimes conflicting agendas under one mission – heart health – means a lot to me. The most rewarding experience is seeing how our team and Board manage to bring together the global cardiovascular community and create a lasting change in access to care and prevention. It is our job to inspire others and lead the way in cardiovascular knowledge sharing, communications and policy, and behavior change.

10 years of the Boehringer ­Ingelheim and Lilly Alliance

In January 2011, Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company announced an alliance centered on compounds representing several of the largest type 2 diabetes treatment classes.

The Alliance has since leveraged the strengths of two of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies to focus on patient needs, thereby demonstrating their commitment not only to the care of people with type 2 diabetes but also to investigating the potential to address other areas of unmet medical need. Three successful products have come out of this alliance: TRAJENTA® (linagliptin) was launched in 2011, JARDIANCE® (empagliflozin) in 2014, and BASAGLAR® (insulin glargine) in 2016.

In 2015, empagliflozin was the first SGLT-2 inhibitor to show a positive impact on cardiovascular mortality in the landmark cardiovascular EMPA-REG-OUTCOME® trial in patients with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease. Based on these groundbreaking results, clinical trials like the EMPEROR trials or EMPA-KIDNEY have been initiated to evaluate the impact of empagliflozin on people living with heart failure or chronic kidney disease, with and without type 2 diabetes. With the EMPEROR-Reduced trial in 2020, the Alliance took the first step toward providing a treatment option for adults facing heart failure.

“We are proud of the significant ways we have been able to improve the lives of people with diabetes as part of the Alliance.”
Michael B. Mason
President of Lilly Diabetes
“We look forward to the upcoming significant milestones in the continuation of this exciting and important journey to improve the lives of people with cardio-renal-metabolic diseases.”
Ivan Blanarik
Head of the Therapeutic Area Cardio, Metabolism & Respiratory at Boehringer Ingelheim


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