Patient Education Vol3 No1


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By Dr. Dorothy L. Smith

Expert in safe medication use, author of 23 books for consumers on prescription drugs, and President of Consumer Health Information Corporation.

Improving Profits by Informing Patients

Vol. 3 No. 1

peu_smith2Dr. Dorothy L. Smith is an internationally recognized expert in patient education, patient compliance, and behavior modification programs. She has devoted her career to helping people make informed decisions about health care and use of medications. Dr. Smith is the author of 23 books and has appeared on radio and television programs across the country to increase awareness of the important role consumers play in their prescription drug therapy.

In 1983, she founded Consumer Health Information Corporation, a company internationally recognized for its innovative patient information programs. The organization has produced a broad range of print and audiovisual programs that have helped millions of people learn to make wise decisions about their health and medications. The company is a teaching site for several schools of pharmacy across the United States and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

The consumer will be the final judge of all the patient communication materials you produce for them. If you can develop patient information that is written in language that patients can understand and incorporates behavior modification techniques, you will be able to convince the patient that the information is important to their own personal health. Patients will start taking their medications correctly. The health care system will start working as it should .. and I can guarantee that the product’s ROI will increase because patients will not drop out of therapy and will refill their prescriptions.

Why Are Refill Prescriptions More Important Than Initial Prescriptions to My Bottom Line?

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I continue to hear product managers say that the main focus of their marketing strategy is to get physicians to write the initial prescriptions.

But product managers who only look at initial prescription sales are selling their product short! In fact, taking steps to persuade patients to refill their prescriptions can increase total prescription sales by 50%.

When you apply the patient compliance research statistics to the typical DTC ad, the loss in sales is clear.

Of every 100 people who read a DTC ad for a chronic medication, 7 will receive a prescription. BUT only 1 person will still be taking it by the 4th refill! Assuming that all 7 patients should have stayed on the medication, total potential sales for the initial prescription and 4 refills would have been 35. In reality, 6 people dropped out by the time of the 4th refill. Only 16 prescriptions were actually filled. That means you have lost more than 50% of your potential sales by the time of the 4th refill … because the person was not educated and motivated along the way.

This is why it is clear that a product manager can significantly increase sales by looking beyond the initial prescription. The effect is even more profound for a chronic medication … because the goal has to be to keep patient on the drug for more than 4 refills.


Why Isn’t My Patient Education Program Working?

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I received a call last week from a product manager who was concerned that he had spent so much money on patient compliance programs but they hadn’t improved his ROI. He was fed up because he had spent a lot of his budget to develop a series of pamphlets to support his DTC ad and for health professionals to use in their practice. The materials looked “attractive” and he had a tremendous printing bill … but the content had not increased patient compliance … and his ROI was flat…

He felt he had absolutely wasted his money and even worse lost the launch opportunity to establish brand loyalty for his product. Despite this, he still believes that patient education should increase his sales, but that he just had a “poor” program. He does not want to spend any more money on design and printing until he can figure out how to make these materials work. He asked, “How can I increase patient adherence so my sales go up?”

I really felt sorry for him because he had tried to go in the right direction. The dollars he spent on patient education should have significantly increased his sales.

Product managers like the one who called me are losing 10-20% of all initial prescription sales because people decide not to fill them. In addition, at least 50% of the people who do get the prescription filled do not take it correctly. This means the drug cannot be maximally effective. MDs do not see the full clinical response…and may decide to switch the patient to another medication. Even worse, about 30% of patients (and frequently more) do not get their refills. They quit because they decide the side effects are too annoying, the drug is not working, or they forget to get their refill.

With a chronic medication, the impact of these patient decisions on a product’s ROI can be staggering. That is why it’s critical to develop programs that will help prevent patient drop-out and increase retention. A patient education program must be integrated into every place during the drug therapy where a patient makes a decision whether or not to take the drug.


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Consumer Health Information Corporation is an internationally recognized leader in the development and production of patient education programs for pharmaceutical companies, managed care organizations, and consumers.

Consumer Health Information Corporation

(703) 734-0650 | Fax (703) 734-1459