The results suggest a strategy for improving market share: educating pharmacists to help them better understand what sets
a brand apart. And because ease-of-use is a key concern, there is a good chance that marketers for a particular brand can
improve its position by teaching pharmacists how to use the glucometer—and how to teach patients to use it.
For glucometers, the key issue is driving share. But it is clear that companies can drive compliance by using similar strategies
with pharmacists, especially for drugs that involve delivery systems such as inhalables or injectables.
Pharmacists as Marketers
Mystery shopping also is an effective tool for evaluating how pharmacists position a particular brand. In fact, just as retail
outlets depend on sales associates to deliver on the stores' brand promise, pharmacists can either make or break consumers'
perception of a brand. By consistently evaluating how pharmacists represent a brand, pharma companies can implement necessary
training programs to build pharmacist—and, therefore, patient—trust of the medication.
An example: Mystery shoppers have reported that some pharmacy personnel respond to complaints about the price of medications
by agreeing—or even by criticizing the manufacturer. To combat behavior like this, companies must ramp up educational efforts
not only about the value of the medication, but also about company access programs available to those in need. With this information,
the pharmacist—acting as a brand representative—can build good will and possibly help remove one barrier—cost—to improving
At one time, identifying specific patients for additional one-on-one counsel would have been cumbersome. However, new tools
are opening untapped avenues for efficient and effective pharma–pharmacist partnerships focused on persistence and compliance.
For example, Web-based, HIPAA-compliant, secure communication tools are becoming more integrated into pharmacists' workday.
These electronic means provide one way for pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists to enhance compliance.
Say a specific medication has particularly severe side effects. The pharma company can work with the pharmacist, using Web-based
tools or computer software, to automatically flag every new patient filling a prescription for this particular drug. The pharmacists
can then implement a call program to encourage patients to continue correct administration, despite the side effects. The
same HIPAA-compliant process can work for refills or a multitude of other scenarios to leverage the trust between pharmacists
and patients in a way that's beneficial for all parties. A variety of pharmacological studies have found that when pharmacists
work with patients in their community, adherence to medication regimens improve.
Health-risk assessments, whether conducted jointly with the pharmacy or sponsored by the pharma company, present another chance
for pharmacists to reinforce the importance of consistently taking preventive medications.
Pharmacy-based clinics also offer additional opportunities to leverage the patient–pharmacist relationship. In some cases,
the clinics are seasonal, with pharmacists providing flu or pneumonia vaccinations. Other clinics range from asthma screenings
to basic primary care services. And many pharmacists are now offering medication therapy management (MTM) to qualifying patients
who are enrolled in Medicare Part D. All of these venues facilitate conversations between pharmacists and their patients,
providing repeated occasions to reinforce the compliance message.
Enhancing the Conversation
Patients get the most benefit from medications that are taken as directed. Patient compliance increases store traffic and
prescription revenue for pharmacies, especially for maintenance and long-term prescription therapies, and it also increases
sales for the pharmaceutical companies.
Of course, responsibility to take medications ultimately rests on the patient. But because of the level of respect and trust
pharmacists have earned, their interactions and counsel can have a positive effect on an individual's compliance. Savvy pharma
marketers will look for opportunities to further enhance the patient–pharmacist conversation.
Mike Mallett is CEO of Corporate Research International. He can be reached at email@example.com