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Why Pharma Needs More Adherence Programs

Posted by | 11:19am on Thursday, December 31, 2009

Of the 3 billion medication prescriptions issued annually in the U.S., 12% are never picked up by the patient 

Of the 3 billion medication prescriptions issued annually in the U.S., 12% are never picked up by the patient and 40% are not taken correctly. This statistic is from a recent report, “Technologies for Optimizing Medication Use in Older Adults,” produced by the non-profit Center for Technology and Aging.

Another startling statistic: Medication non-adherence is responsible for up to 33%-69% of medication-related hospital admissions and 23% of all nursing home admissions. It’s clear that adherence programs are not only an opportunity for pharma marketers to sell more drugs, but to make a difference in the health of many patients and reduce healthcare costs.

This data is a powerful incentive for pharmaceutical companies to use technology to make an impact on the problem of medication adherence.

How can pharma make a difference?
By offering relationship marketing programs that truly meet the needs of patients. Provide targeted, custom content that helps the patient (and caregiver) along their journey. If done correctly, these programs can be very successful. According to an October 2008 study by Epsilon, 48% of respondents said the email they received from pharma companies helped them stay on their medication.

It’s also important to provide content in a format that’s relevant to patients. An excellent example is a study, published in Pediatrics, that showed text messaging significantly improved the rate of adherence among young liver transplant patients.

Hat tip to Fierce Healthcare and The New York Times for bringing these studies to my attention.

This post was contributed by Eileen O’Brien, Director of Search & Innovation for Siren Interactive.

(Image courtesy of Rodrigo Senna via Flickr)

About Eileen O'Brien

Eileen has more than 16 years of digital healthcare marketing experience. She is an opinion leader on social media and biopharma, and has been invited to speak at industry conferences and quoted in publications.

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  • http://www.nexdose.com John Hamilton

    Medication adherence improvements are an effective means for pharma to reduce the gap that regularly exists between units prescribed and units sold.

    Some available online medication management systems deliver measurable results at very modest costs, making their employment by pharma particularly attractive.

    To some, it would make better sense to fund programs where patients are rewarded for their adherence to a specific dosing regimen PLUS their timely purchase of refills INSTEAD OF rewarding patients for timely refills only…especially in a depressed economic environment.

    The lead adherence element is engaging the patient to be the primary advocate for their own healthcare. Secondarily, the patient must remember to take each prescribed dose at its prescribed time.

    One available product delivers a monitored adherence dosing metric that details adherence problem areas and provides online tools for dosing adjustments to fit patient lifestyles as well as several other proven adherence measures discussed in the literature. Used as it is designed to be used, the NexDose system simply will not allow a patient to forget a dose of medication.

    My elderly mother became a believer in this product with my assistance as an adult caregiver and now would struggle without her portable reminder.

    With the upheaval of America as it is today, available pharma resources appear to be targeting patients who simply need medications rather than targeting patients who have difficulty with adherence to their medications.

    One would think that adherence would have been addressed by the pharma community in the last decade when the Task Force for Compliance made its report available. Our losses as a country since taking little or no meaningful action since then (1993) must add up to a significant value today. Perhaps pharma feels that adherence measures should be legislated rather than volunteered. After all, much of the incurred monetary losses due to inappropriate adherence appear today to be borne by taxpayers.

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