Patient Adherence to Drug Therapy Provides Challenges and Opportunities for CR Professionals
According to the World Health Organization, of the 1.8 billion prescriptions dispensed annually, only 50% are taken correctly by the patient. Some estimates suggest that the pharmaceutical industry loses $350 billion annually due to lack of patient adherence. Add to this the related human costs of increased morbidity and death, the additional costs imposed on the health care system and taxpayers, as well as lost economic productivity and you have a business and public health issue that needs to be at the top of the industry’s corporate responsibility agenda.
The problem of patient adherence is a different side of the same coin as Access to Medicines (ATM) – a CR issue which the industry has been struggling to address for years. Pharmacos have come under increasing fire to make medicines affordable for the billions of individuals worldwide, who lack coverage or other means to pay for them.
Reasons for poor adherence to drug therapy vary. It’s estimated that half of all patients cannot comprehend what they are reading when provided with information on diseases and treatment.
Those who are most likely to discontinue drug therapy in the initial 30 days, include:
• The elderly
• Those who lack a high school degree
• The unemployed and/or those with low income
• Minority ethnic groups
• Those who Speak English as a second language
Not surprisingly, these represent the same demographic groups that also suffer from a lack of access to medicines. Worldwide, 2.2 billion people effectively have no access, and millions more only have limited access. The human cost is staggering – each year an estimated 10 million people die from a lack of access to medicine.
Yet, while different challenges, ATM and Adherence face similar obstacles. A narrow focus on cost containment discourages industry action on both issues. A lack of investment in education on prevention, health, and wellness bedevils both Adherence and ATM.
The industry therefore finds itself in an ironic dilemma. On the one hand, patients desperate for treatment cannot access it. On the other, because of privacy laws, the industry cannot access those that need treatment but inexplicably abandon it.
Pharmacos need a better strategy to take on these twin challenges. We propose an approach that looks at Adherence and ATM as part of a broader CR challenge and brings together R&D, Marketing, Public Affairs, Communications, and Corporate Responsibility in a coordinated effort.
The challenge for the industry is to align its efforts to increase both patient Adherence to drug prescriptions and patient Access To Medicines This requires pharmacos to adopt a comprehensive “access to Health” educational approach that involves both new and enhanced approaches to patient and caregiver education and awareness, technology, targeted external communications and promotions, and strategic linkages to drive access to medicines.
The opportunity for the CR department is to take ownership of an issue that can boost revenue, reputation, brand, and accounting “goodwill” on the balance sheet and in doing so, further drive the corporate responsibility agenda into business strategy.
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