A Viable Solution
For every adherence program that works, dozens of others fall by the wayside after a year or two. Most dissipate after a drug
loses patent exclusivity, and some just fail to draw any interest from patients.
"Adherence is still a very small, insignificant issue within the pharma space," says Robert Nauman, principal, BioPharma Advisors.
"If this is a high-profile drug or if the product is a specialty product or biologic, then it might have the budget to pay
for these sizable programs. But that's often not the case."
Right now, pharma-sponsored adherence programs are so spread out and individualized that there's no competiveness. The programs
cost a few million dollars, exist for a few years, and then they go away as the manager or director working on them goes away,
"Adherence programs will continue to languish until the patient has more accountability for their own healthcare, which could
happen in some of the new healthcare models," Nauman says. "Even then, it's up to the individual patient."
So why do programs like Weight Watchers work? Millions of people succeed in losing weight each year by counting points and
tracking their goals. Couldn't this work for pharma?
Nauman says that the fundamental difference between a diet program and a drug regimen is that the person is typically a motivated
individual. The person is motivated to change whatever previous behavior was happening. It doesn't help that many of the medications
that have poor compliance also treat diseases with no visible symptoms.
"Patients that don't take their diseases seriously are a natural compliance challenge," Nauman says. "Until they come to terms
with it, it's really hard for them to stay on a treatment."
Oyekan believes in the team-effort approach. "We shouldn't just expect the patients to take a medication because we, as physicians,
are prescribing it," she says. "Until we commit fully to this concept of med adherence as a major priority, whether it's with
the pharma companies, within organizations, and most importantly with the patients, it's going to be a huge challenge."