Getting Serious About Adherence

Great post today from John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog today about adherence.

First, Mach cites an amazing 2003 World Health Organization report on the problem that estimates that worldwide, something like 30% to 50% of medications prescribed  aren’t taken as directed. This reminds us of Lord Leverhume’s famous observation about advertising, that 50% of his advertising was being wasted, but he didn’t know which 50%.

The WHO report, although five years old, is a comprehensive review of the adherence problem all around the world. You can download it here.

Mack then goes on to introduce us to what seems to be a less-than-serious adherence tool — a collar that, when worn, senses when pills have been swallowed. This requires, however, that the pills be implanted with tiny magnets that the sensors can pick up. Uh, no thanks. For one thing, it closely resembles the kind of collar used to train hunting dogs using electric shocks. See for yourself:


Magnetic sensor collar for improving pharmaceutical adherence.


Electronic shock collar for training hunting dogs.

More seriously, though, the big issue with adherence is fairly straightforward — it isn’t easy. To quote his post: It’s not easy to get a good return on investment from a
compliance/adherence marketing/patient education campaign. That’s why
the vast majority of pharmaceutical marketers continue to focus on the
"low-hanging fruit," i.e., new prescriptions (new patients).

This we knew also. Adherence is not simple, and not easy, but when executed correctly, it’s extraordinarily effective, and the ROI is phenomenal. And also, hard as it may be, it’s got to be a lot easier than convincing patients to strap on a collar with batteries and flashing lights. I mean, at least until that thing comes in platinum.