Getting patients to take their meds is always a difficult proposition. Some folks are forgetful. Others are concerned with expenses or side effects. Then there are those patients who are reluctant to acknowledge their illness or are slightly suspicious of their healthcare provider. So what are drugmakers doing about the lack of patient adherence? A new report finds the industry is throwing more money at the problem.
To wit, 71 percent of drugmakers now have a team dedicated to patient adherence and four created such teams in the past year. Meanwhile, budgets are getting fat. For instance, US drugmakers reported an average budget of $400,000 in 2009, but that hit $1.53 million this year, a 281 percent gain, according to a report from Cutting Edge, a market research firm. When including drugmakers from other regions, budgets went from $239,000 to slightly more than $1 million.
The increases are hardly surprising, given the need for drugmakers to bolster revenue by any means possible during a double whammy - the recent recession and the patent cliff in which many big sellers lost patent protection and generic competition began with a vengeance. Last year, drugmakers participating in the report estimated 25 percent of overall sales were diminished by a lack of patient adherence, while 31 percent of revenue can be preserved by adherence efforts.
Such numbers take on importance for another reason: the high cost of acquiring new patients compared with retaining existing patients. Overall, the 18 respondents interviewed by Cutting Edge estimated that acquiring new patients costs 95 percent more than holding on to the patients they already have. In other words, the cost almost doubles. In the US, however, the higher cost was calculated at 37 percent.
Meanwhile, more of those dedicated adherence budgets are being spent to reach patients online or through their smartphones, while dollars for traditional media are remaining flat. Big increases in spending were reported for online forums, so-called educational web sites and e-mails used to remind patients to take their med. This spending varies, however, depending upon the medication and the targeted demographic.
The report also found that 72 percent of brand managers are involved in patient adherence and, generally, have final-decision making responsibilities. One unnamed exec, however, suggested there are virtues in separating the function. How so? Brand managers tend to be focused on return on investment and metrics that justify the effort, but a so-called holistic approach allows brand teams to consider 'action' plans, while adherence teams can implement details.
Demonstrating ROI, in fact, is seen as the biggest internal hurdle to ramping up adherence programs. More respondents cited this issue than any other, including cross-functional cooperation, senior management buy in, meeting goals and objectives and attaining sufficient resources.
One further nugget: if you were wondering when drugmakers - at least those participating in this report - start planning for patient adherence, 29 percent do so during the first year that a drug is on the market and 7 percent get going in the second year, while 21 percent begin in the third year. In other words, most drugmakers - or 57 percent - do not look at adherence until after a drug is being sold, instead of doing any planning.