If Greater Adherence Equals Greater Profit, is that a Dilemma for Pharma?
Patient Adherence is an oft-discussed topic these days, with the focus primarily on "patient care", however greater adherence will in turn produce greater profits - doesn't this present an ethical dilemma for big pharma?
More than ever, pharmaceutical companies are recognizing the need to place a greater emphasis on medication adherence, and to fund initiatives to that end. Here are some of the reasons why:
- They want to diversify their role in improving health outcomes
- The “pharma 3.0” model highlights the wrapping of services around the pill
- In healthcare now, cost savings trump innovation (less value is placed on new medications)
- It’s cheaper to keep an existing customer (patient) than to gain a new one
- Pipelines are drying up
- Generic competition is stiff
- Medication non-adherence is finally recognized as a public health crisis
Luckily, greater medication adherence is a win-win for everyone in healthcare, from the patient to the insurer to the pharmaceutical company and beyond. Every healthcare constituency is nicely aligned in their push to get people to stick with their prescription medications.
After all, who can argue with the benefits of adherence, such as greater stroke and heart attack prevention (anti-hypertensives, statins), greater prevention of cancer recurrence (adjuvant therapy), and greater prevention of blindness and amputation (diabetes medication), to name just a few? The promotion of medication adherence is a no-brainer. It’s a push for better outcomes.
However, when it comes to the question, “Who is funding this adherence program?,” knee-jerk perception issues threaten to arise, particularly in the popular press.
In other words, if a pharma company supports a medication adherence initiative, isn’t the company really just pushing its product? Isn’t it really just pushing its profit?
Well, yes, pharmaceutical companies are for-profit entities (no apologies needed) and greater adherence does translate to greater profit. But it also translates to better outcomes and lower healthcare costs, regardless of who pays.
So why is it seemingly less controversial if an insurer or employer supports an adherence program for patients, particularly an incentive-based program? If you take even a brief moment to think about it, those constituencies stand to benefit from increased profits as well. Given that profit = revenue – cost, if an insurer or employer can decrease their costs by supporting an adherence program, their profit potential is obvious.
The bottom line is this: medication non-adherence negatively affects patients and the healthcare industry as a whole, in a multitude of ways. All constituencies should play a role in boosting adherence rates, using a diverse array of tactics, and lending a hand to innovate in the space.
The spinal cord reflexes of the press should not serve as a deterrent. The adherence problem is far too important.
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