28 Sep Two solutions to medication adherence? Stay in shape! Keep your color!
Medication adherence is a hot topic for our agency. Our pharma clients engage us to help them develop innovative adherence programs. Why? Because it’s good for their business, of course. But also, because it’s good for the health of America.
Did you know that medication nonadherence kills 125,000 Americans every year? That’s more than diabetes. More than Alzheimer’s. More than car accidents. No wonder adherence is now considered healthcare’s “next frontier in quality improvement.”
We’re going to explore the adherence issue more in a series of upcoming blogs on the prevalence and impact of this problem, the reasons why so many people don’t take their medicine (some of the reasons will surprise you), and possible solutions (here too, some may surprise you).
But first, we wanted to give you a heads-up about an article in Annals of Internal Medicine that caught our eye. It reports on a study at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital that followed people for 12 months who had a heart attack and got a prescription for a cardiovascular medication.
For about 30% of those people, at some point in the year, their pill shape and/or color changed. And that caused huge problems. When the pill color changed, nonadherence jumped one third. When the shape changed, nonadherence soared two thirds!
Some of these were “brand name” drugs. Others were generics. Sometimes the change in shape and color was caused by a switch from branded to generic. Other times, the changes happened when patients already receiving one branded drug were switched to another brand, or when patients were prescribed a generic and switched to a different generic.
There are many reasons why the changes took place and why they caused nonadherence. And they certainly aren’t the only cause for nonadherence. Even when people fill their prescription…even when they are motivated and take their medicine regularly…even when they want to adhere and believe they are, nonadherence can still be a problem.
This article reminded us of a product that the folks at our healthcare marketing agency once helped promote for a big pharma leader back east: a nasal spray prescribed to treat allergies. The client showed us an anguished letter from a patient complaining that he had drunk two sprays of the product once daily, as directed, until the bottle was empty and experienced no relief whatsoever. In fact, now he had a stuffy nose and a sore throat.
Maybe we should have recommended changing the shape and color of the bottle?