Pharma Needs to Better Utilize Patient Adherence Programs

It sometimes amazes me to hear the answers to these kinds of questions:

  • Question 1: What is the treatment length for your disease state (months, years, decades)? 
  • Question 2: How long does your patient adherence program run?

Typical responses are:

  • Answer 1: “Patients will likely be on this therapy for the rest of their lives.”
  • Answer 2: “Our adherence program ends after the sixth email.”

In our industry, it seems the notion of continuing our relationship with a customer beyond the initial six months doesn’t rank very high on the priority list, assuming actions are representative of sentiment. As is often the case in the pharmaceutical industry, this approach deviates from the norms we see in many other industries, such as retailers, hotel chains, airlines, credit card companies, and more. All these industries have a form of "adherence" programs that communicate with their customers for many years, not just months. And this is one thing that federal regulations don’t restrict pharmaceutical companies from utilizing, so why not take advantage?  

So does pharma believe that once a patient starts on a treatment and follows it for six months that they’ll take it for the rest of their lives? The average length of therapy (ALOT) statistics for their brands are usually readily available and indicate quite the opposite. It’s likely due to competing priorities within a brand manager’s responsibilities and a lack of focus from senior management. There is no shortage of literature on the impact of patient adherence on the healthcare system. The actual impact, while difficult to measure, is believed to be anywhere from a $150 to $300 billion, as noted by Kent Groves, PhD in his white paper titled “In Pursuit of Patient Adherence.”

If you’re promoting a treatment for a chronic illness, take a look at how many patients have opted in to receive communications from you. Compare that to how many are still receiving communications. If the results are surprising ... well ... you have a gap, and it might be appropriate to develop a working strategy. Your Rx trends will improve accordingly.

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