This 3‑part blog series discusses ways to address the challenges of maintaining profits in the changing world of drug discovery in the face of increased competition, pricing pressures, and more targeted therapies (with resulting smaller patient populations).

 

Healthprize CEO Tom Kottler has identified 4 seemingly simple approaches that a pharma firm can take to maintain their revenue streams:

1. Launch new products

2. Have physicians write more scripts of existing products

3. Get patients to take their medications

4. Raise prices

 

In the last blog, I focused on #2 and wrote about the considerations made by physicians when prescribing drugs, including lifestyle and ease of use. Based on patient survey data and other market research, needle‑free drug delivery could be a strong market differentiator as patients are likely to specifically request drugs delivered needle‑free and physicians are likely to prescribe.

 

In this blog, I will look at #3: Getting patients to take their medications.

 

It is well documented that adherence is a large and costly problem in the US. Over 150M1 people in the US have a chronic condition and 50% of the people taking a chronic condition medication stop taking it within the first year.2,3 This results in additional hospital expenses, treatment failures, and even preventable deaths.

Why people ‘forget’ or even choose not to take their medication is complex and multi‑faceted. Denial of illness, expense, inconvenience, or fear are just many of the often‑heard reasons for lack of adherence. However, what is clear, is that data is needed to better understand and then to solve this challenge. As is commonly quoted in continuous improvement programs, “You cannot improve what you cannot measure”.

Today’s measures of prescription adherence are antiquated and un‑actionable. The common approach is to analyze prescription fill data or insurance claims data on a monthly or quarterly basis. This data does not account for late or missed doses, is only a proxy for actual adherence, and generally not gathered in time for any corrective actions to be taken.

With the challenge of adherence in mind and knowing a modern infrastructure is needed, Portal Instruments designed their needle‑free injector to automatically collect injection data at the point of use and share this data immediately within secure and approved eco‑systems.

What does this mean for the pharmaceutical firm? It means that pharmaceutical firms will have access to accurate, anonymized, secure data that they can use to help the patient and make business decisions. With this data, the commercial teams are empowered to develop a complete program to address the lack of adherence. For example, after identifying which patient demographics are the most non‑adherent, commercial teams could develop targeted patient marketing materials or programs for that demographic; physician training materials could be developed to use at the high fall‑off months, or additional training for reps could be delivered in territories where adherence was the worst.

Example of Data Use Cases

On a micro level, if real‑time data is fed into the Hub Services team, patient service providers could proactively contact patients if they see patients have skipped or are late with their dose. The root cause could be identified (lack of funds? forgetfulness? other?) and a solution could be identified in time to keep the patient on track. This may also illuminate more reasons for non‑adherence and provide insight on support or programs needed.

 

Patient Acceptance

There is rightfully a concern whether patients are willing to have their data collected and how that data is treated. This will be carefully looked at for each use case as Portal connects to the eco‑system. It is clear, though, that as consumer tech moves into the wellness space and as more health care is pushed to the home, this convergence is creating a new category of consumer medtech with greater acceptance of digital and connectivity and higher demands for intuitiveness and ease of use.

 

Take‑Aways:

A small improvement in adherence can have a significant impact on a drug’s opportunity. Adherence is a massive and costly issue for the entire health system. I challenge each commercial lead and executive to figure out what the overall adherence rate for their injectables are and what a 5%, 10%, or even 50% improvement would mean for profitability.

 

The first step to addressing adherence, is to start accurately measuring the who and when. By automatically tracking injections through a connected injector like Portal’s, and then being able to address root causes and corrective actions, pharmaceutical firms have the opportunity to increase their revenue by helping the patients they have already reached.

 

1. Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. “Growing Crisis of Chronic Disease in the US factsheet 81009”
2. (WHO) World Health Organization. Adherence to long‑term therapies: evidence for action. 2003.
3.FDA.gov. “Why You Need to Take Your Medications as Prescribed or Instructed”.