Haleon: New company, same objectives for oral health. Welcome, Haleon!

In this series of articles, the EFP will show how its partners see the need for changing behaviours in dental prevention and healthcare and what they themselves are doing about it.

In this interview we talk to Alastair Lomax, a medical director within the oral health category at Haleon.

Some of you may well not have heard of Haleon.  It is, in case you didn’t know, a new company born out of a demerger from GSK last year.  It is a listed company on both the London and New York stock exchanges. Alastair Lomax believes Haleon will be more agile in the future.  “Breaking away gives Haleon an opportunity to focus on moving faster, He adds “Haleon has a clear purpose to deliver better everyday health with humanity, and that’s really important for the business.”

Nice words but what does that actually mean? Alastair Lomax expands: “I guess that's where if you look at our brand portfolio, our brands are driven by therapeutic needs.” Whether it is products for sensitive teeth or gum health they are all driven to help prevent pre-existing conditions. Whilst in itself that is good, surely changing behaviour is about prevention and habit changing, isn’t it?  Alastair Lomax couldn’t agree more.“As a company we’re really focussed on condition awareness”, adding to that for example “we are also working all the way through to training of the dental health care professionals of the future, ensuring that topics such as dentine hypersensitivity become part of a future curriculum within the dental schools.” 

Haleon is also helping support professionals to better engage and enhance their communication with their patients to encourage them to a) understand the conditions they are trying to prevent and b) make sure they have the knowledge and tools to achieve that. Alastair Lomax has another hat too.  Part of his role at Haleon is looking at global strategies for oral healthcare. “You still see that there are 3.5 billion people worldwide with oral diseases and other oral conditions, all of which could be preventable. Toothbrushing, for example, is still not a daily practice of the entire global population. We are involved in activities externally to Haleon with associations such as the FDI where we have collected data to say, for example, in a country like India, that a large proportion of the population is still only brushing their teeth once a day.  So, there is a slight dichotomy here, in that the Westernized world is really going forward in terms of the future of oral health and where it can go in terms of therapeutic responses and treatments, and yet other parts of the globe are still not brushing their teeth twice a day.”  Alastair Lomax continues his theme passionately: “We know that when you receive fluoride toothpaste twice a day, every day of your life, that the reduction in dental diseases such as dental caries is significant.”

This whole issue goes wider than just educating dentists and their patients though.  Getting mainstream doctors to recognise oral health problems and refer their patients to a dentist or hygienist is also very important.  Alastair Lomax believes dentistry “is a bit of an island.” That needs changing. The mouth needs to be put back in the body!

Haleon is a new company, just a year old, so what of the next decade? Where are the big changes coming in oral healthcare? “I think the oral health space is changing dramatically for the future and I think that AI is also going to have an impact on oral health and how it can be used in the prediction of oral health outcomes. So, it's critical that Haleon has its finger on the pulse within that area to make sure that we are understanding how data science can be used in this space for the future.” It is also vital that Haleon continues to work towards supporting efforts to empower and enable people to have the opportunity of better oral health whether that is via access to services, educational materials or products.

Is Haleon just as determined to keep the strong relationship with the EFP that GSK had? “I would say that we're just as determined, but with the ambition of wanting to develop our partnership even further.”  Alastair Lomax gives this example on digital innovation. “Haleon is proud to support its partner the EFP, and this important, growing area of future research for Oral Health. The EFP Innovation Award for Digital Solutions is in its second year and quality of both entries and winners is outstanding”

The future relationship seems secure!