Biopharmaceutical manufacturers make significant investments when developing new therapies, each with the promise of improving lives while generating a financial return. But clinical data alone won’t achieve these goals. In fact, the true value of the therapy must be demonstrated to both patients and physicians after the therapy is approved and being used in the real-world, which is where patient adherence programs come into play.
Adherence Is Key
A therapy’s ability to deliver value and improved health outcomes depends on medication adherence. As the WHO notes:
“Adherence is a primary determinant of treatment success. Failure to adhere is a serious problem which not only affects the patient but also the healthcare system. Medication non-adherence in patients leads to substantial worsening of disease, death and increased healthcare costs.”
Effective adherence is built on the foundation of successful collaboration between the patient and the provider with the goal of increasing positive health outcomes. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can support this effort by implementing a patient support program that meets patients where they are and helps overcome the barriers they face. In order to develop this type of program, it’s essential to understand when non-adherence may occur.
Common Types Of Non-Adherence
Studies indicate that about half of prescribed medications are not taken. A breakthrough treatment may deliver promising results in a clinical trial, but those may be hard to replicate in the real world if patients don't take prescribed medications, skip doses, or take less than the amount that will drive a therapeutic benefit.
It’s helpful to think of non-adherence in three general categories:
Primary non-adherence (non-fulfillment adherence) — Providers write a prescription, but the medication is never filled or initiated.
Non-conforming non-adherence — Medications are not taken as prescribed. Patients may skip doses, take medications at the wrong times or in incorrect doses, including taking more than prescribed.
Non-persistence — Patients decide to stop taking a medication without being advised by a health professional to do so. Patients may object based on their beliefs, attitudes, or expectations. Or stopping may be unintentional as when patients have problems with access or personal constraints like remembering doses.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers can support the efforts of HCPs and play a significant role in reducing the percentage of patients that fall into each of these categories. The most effective way to do this is by providing adherence programs that include personal interactions with patient support or treatment experience professionals and/or relevant omnichannel communications that speak directly to the barriers to optimal therapy use that patients face.
Understanding Patient Barriers To Adherence And Overcoming Them
There are a myriad of barriers that keep a patient from initiating or adhering to a therapy. Some of the most common barriers include:
- Concerns about the cost of medication and navigating reimbursement and assistance to access therapy
- Experiencing side effects of the medication or a fear of potential side effects
- Questioning the need for and benefit of treatment
- Having comorbidities and polypharmacy
- Lack of trust or difficulties in the relationship between patient and physician
In the best cases, HCPs will explore a patient’s specific barriers and develop a treatment plan that empowers the patient to take ownership of their own health. But this doesn’t always happen because of the constraints that exist in the healthcare system.
There’s a way around this logjam. Biopharma companies can design patient support programs to include personal interactions with treatment experience navigators. In this supportive context, the navigators and patients can explore the barriers patients face and work collaboratively to overcome them. Omnichannel communication plans can then be personalized to the patient’s specific needs to further solidify adherence.
As a result, patients will be more informed and engaged, and therefore more likely to act in their own best interests. In the best situations, patients will be assured that adhering to the prescription plan recommended by their HCP is the best option for their health.
Leveraging Technology To Drive Improved Adherence
Fortunately, technology can power these types of personalized interactions. Unlike television where advertising messages must appeal to a large swath of people, modern methods — text messaging, email, video chat, telephone — enable one-to-one communications. Our Resilix® software provides the tools and environment for patient services teams at biopharma manufacturers to run this type of adherence program at scale.
Our approach is first to map the barriers that matter: identify what events and barriers are more likely to cause patients to not initiate or adhere to therapy. Then we build methods for patient interaction into the system that make it easier for case managers and care navigators to help patients overcome their specific barriers.
The successful introduction of a new drug therapy can create long-lasting benefits for all involved. Doctors have new tools for fighting disease and creating health, patients regain health, and drug developers and manufacturers validate the economic value of new treatments, including the business case for the cost of clinical studies. All of this is made possible by an effective adherence program.
Learn more about the impact of an effective patient experience program in our recent report: Patient Experience With Treatment During COVID-19.