Feelings Outweigh Facts

Your new drug works? Patients don't care how. They want to know what it means in their lives.
Feb 02, 2006

Imagine a person sitting alone in his living room suffering through a pounding migraine, while the rest of his family sits together around the kitchen table. He wants to join them, but his symptoms render him motionless. Now, imagine he has the choice to take two different drugs that promise to alleviate symptoms of his migraine. Drug A promises to help at the source of the problem by decreasing the frequency of swollen blood vessels around the brain, while drug B promises migraine-free days with more time to spend with the family. What do you think he would choose?

Myths And Facts About Consumer Rx Purchasing
A study looks at what motivates consumers to fill a brand prescription based on how a patient values his or her therapy, what attributes are most important when choosing a drug, and what effect co-pays have on those decisions. Health Strategies Group surveyed more than 1,800 treated patients—who all suffer from one of six chronic and acute conditions including arthritis/pain, depression, diabetes, elevated lipids, hypertension, and migraine—and found that first and foremost, consumers perceive themselves as people, not patients. What they want as people shapes their choice of drugs, their perception of the value of treatment, and their view of therapeutic success.

People, Not Patients

The survey found that when consumers embark on the process of obtaining or refilling prescriptions, their primary motivator is to find drugs that help them feel like they did before their illness. For example, if a 65-year-old woman suffers from arthritis that keeps her away from her family, she will seek a drug that relieves her her achy joints and muscles, so that she can join her grandchildren in the yard. In other words, consumers stay with the drugs that help them remove the roadblocks to a normal lifestyle.

According to the study of treated patients, they felt that having close relationships was the most important factor in their lives, followed by looking forward to the future, and being in control of daily activities.

Using emotional over rational decisions, people more often choose to use a medication because of how it makes them feel, instead of how it actually helps them. They value the brands they associate with improving their everyday lives. There are four driving factors that help consumers determine a prescription's value and motivate them to fill it. (See "What Contributes to Consumer's Rx Valuation".) These include:

  • Functional and emotional burden of illness
  • Awareness of beliefs about alternatives
  • Treatment decision risk
  • Direct product experience

1. Burden of illness For consumers, the perception that a disease will impair their relationships, outlook, and quality of life is their primary motivation for purchasing prescriptions, accounting for more than a quarter of the difference between consumers who do and who don't intend to continue a prescription medication. Going even further, consumers with symptomatic conditions like arthritis or depression discontinue therapy more often than consumers whose conditions have no symptoms, but who perceive that the drug helps them have a better quality of life. The opposite would result if the symptoms were more important than consumers' valuation of their quality of life.

2. Awareness of alternatives If a patient chooses to continue with his treatment, there is little chance he made that decision based on his knowledge of alternative drug treatments. Consumers learn about drugs from experience—few can name one prescription product they have not tried, and the majority cannot name any.

Awareness of prescription alternatives differs little among patients who intend to continue and those who intend to discontinue therapy. Only one percent of consumers who have switched medications attribute their decision to awareness of a different medication.

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