DTC's New Job: Boosting Compliance - Pharmaceutical Executive

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DTC's New Job: Boosting Compliance
Refills, not office visits, should be the goal of consumer communications.


Pharmaceutical Executive


The PPI should be the basis for all future DTC collateral education programs and patient counseling tools for physicians and pharmacists as well as for the product's website.

Then the company is ready to:

  • Develop easy-to-understand content at the fourth- or sixth-grade reading level. Even if a pamphlet is written at the sixth-grade level, however, there is no guarantee that consumers will understand it. Studies show that some people do not understand such terms as "red meat," "orally," and "high-fat diet."
  • Translate side effects into symptoms that patients can understand. Patients must be able to recognize the early warning signs of side effects, know how to manage symptoms, and know when to seek medical attention if side effects become too severe. When the information is communicated properly, patients are less likely to drop out of treatment prematurely.
  • Use strategies that persuade patients to fill the initial prescription and remain in treatment. Patients must see value in taking a medication as well as the need to make lifestyle changes. Companies should use behavior modification strategies that fit each specific stage of therapy. Patients need different information when they receive the initial prescription than they do for refilling a prescription at one month, three months, six months, or more.
  • Demonstrate empathy. Patients must believe that the pharma company cares about, and wants to improve, their quality of life. When they see the company's educational materials, their reaction should be, "That's exactly how I feel."

3. Design. The design of a full compliance program begins during the content development stage. Whenever a message can be more clearly conveyed through a photograph, chart, illustration, or other visual medium, it should be. The key is to ensure that the design reinforces the written content, increases comprehension, and speaks directly to the patient's condition and symptoms. (See "His Heartburn is My Heartburn.")

Here's how:

  • Simplify medical illustrations so they are consumer friendly and easy to understand.
  • Select colors, fonts, type sizes, and paper that meet patients' needs. For example, blue and green should not be used together for a diabetic audience, because many diabetic patients who have undergone laser surgery for retinopathy cannot distinguish between the two colors.
  • Reinforce the brand identification so consumers easily recognize the product each time they see a DTC ad or collateral materials about it.
  • Convey a sense of empathy with patients throughout the design in a way that will be acceptable to patients, consumers, and caregivers.

Long-Term Success For most patients, the success of drug therapy hinges on how well they understand and believe the information they receive. For a pharma company, the success of DTC advertising campaigns for drugs that treat long-term conditions may have less to do with the size of the ad budget and more to do with understanding how to deliver information in a way that meets the customer's self-care needs. Although patient noncompliance is a major problem for pharma, it also presents one of the industry's greatest opportunities for growth.


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