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Large Pharma Tries New Approach to Non-Adherence


Pharmaceutical Executive

Medication non-adherence is a real problem, this article looks at how to help patients better control their treatments and improve adherence.

Medication non-adherence places a significant cost burden on healthcare systems. In the U.S. alone, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine, medication non-adherence is a $300 billion a year burden resulting in 10% of hospitalizations and causing 125,000 deaths.

There are many reasons behind non-adherence, whether it be forgetfulness, a sense that the medication doesn’t appear to be helping, or is causing side effects, misperceptions that patients don’t need to finish the regimen, or problems with filling, dosing, affordability, among other reasons, such as trying to juggle and manage multiple medications.

Recognizing the medication adherence challenges patients are facing, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany partnered with Medisafe to empower patients to better manage their conditions. The companies focused on helping chronic disease patients across complex therapeutic areas-cardiometabolism and endocrinology-in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany was focused on helping patients improve medication management, education, and refills.

Objectives for a successful patient empowerment program

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany knew they wanted an innovative approach to connect with patients on a personal level to support their therapies. The global pharmaceutical company partnered with Medisafe, an evidence-based digital therapeutics company providing medication management solutions for patients, to create a customized medication management app that cardio metabolism and endocrinology patients in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia could incorporate into their everyday routines. Patients received customized motivational feedback as well as text message reminders and other personalized interventions alerting patients to refill their prescriptions and take their medications. Medisafe had four thousand registered patients in the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany programs and they notified users about joining the program to support their medication management when users entered one of the 32 designated brands in the program within the app. To help with enrollment, Medisafe digitally recruited patients into the Medisafe app in the designated countries to drive traffic. Additionally, some health care providers in those designated countries recognize the program and shared information about Medisafe and the programs they offer with patients.

Through the partnership, patients received daily support and connectivity to their specific medication dosing and condition needs. Customized medication reminders provide transparency into complex dosing schedules which can be shared with caregivers and, later, their healthcare providers.

The customized programs also include condition-specific and/or lifestyle content targeted to patients at appropriate phases of their treatment journey. This personalized content supports patients to make lifestyle and behavioral modifications, and included disease and medication information, healthy lifestyle tips, caregiver support, and trackers for measurements of several health indicators visible only to the patients. The customized digital medication management programs provide patients with a tool that facilitates the management of their medication, helping to free their mind from the need to remember each dose, and empowering them to carry on with their daily routines.

Creating a digital health companion for medication management

As part of the program, Medisafe deploys medication reminders to patients, which provides transparency into complex dosing schedules. These can also be shared with caregivers through the company’s Medfriend feature. With Medfriend, users can designate and sync a family member, friend, or caregiver to their app. In the occasion the user forgets to take their medication, Medisafe sends push notifications to the Medfriend, offering him or her to remind the user to take their medication. Additionally, the app sends push notifications when a mediation needs a refill. This personalized content helps patients to make lifestyle and behavioral modifications.

Measuring success of patient empowerment

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany increased medication adherence on average to 83% across the three conditions and three countries among patients using the digital companion. In addition, these patients demonstrated high levels of satisfaction with the programs.

After five months, the digital companion lifted adherence on average by 13% over Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s predetermined baseline goals-a double digit adherence lift across the programs. Medisafe also compared adherence rates of patients enrolled in the customized Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany programs to the adherence rates of general Medisafe patients who were taking a drug from the global pharmaceutical brand but had not enrolled in the customized app-based programs. Specifically, cardiology, diabetes, and thyroid patients using the digital companion demonstrated an average adherence rate 10% higher than patients taking a drug from the global pharmaceutical brand but not enrolled in these programs.

Additionally, Medisafe surveyed users on their overall experiences using a digital companion. When asked about their experience using the digital health companions, 73% of patients reported that they were very or extremely satisfied with the program, 70% were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the content, and 85% were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the customization features in the app, including customized motivational feedback for patients and personalized interventions reminding patients to refill their prescriptions and take their medications. Moreover, the program’s results support the importance of empowering patients with relevant and high-quality support tools to help maximize treatment outcomes and reducing disease burden.

While app-based digital companions are still a new approach for many pharmaceutical companies, this case study demonstrates how companies can invest in enhancing the patient experience to improve medication adherence.


Omri Shor, CEO and Co-Founder, Medisafe

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