ECONOMIC CRISIS: Pharma Sales Will Drop As Patients Cut Back on Prescriptions

Pharma has the greatest potential of any industry in the world to recapture lost sales and increase their products’ long-term success.

Medicine, Healthcare And All Things Related

McLean, VA — Dr. Dorothy L. Smith, President and CEO of metropolitan Washington, DC-based Consumer Health Information Corporation (CHIC) and a leader in evidence-based patient adherence program development, spoke about the importance of the patient’s role in successful therapeutic outcomes to an audience comprised of pharmaceutical industry executives, clinicians and researchers. She was invited to address the Pharmaceutical Industry session at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Smith, a founding member of the ACCP, stressed that, “The patient holds the power to the success of your products. In today’s volatile economy, at least 20% of patients are cutting costs and are not filling their initial prescriptions. As many as 50% – 85% do not refill their prescriptions.”

In the current economic crisis, patients are cutting back on purchasing prescription drugs and taking lower doses in an attempt to make their prescription medications last longer. Not only is this dangerous to their health but it hurts the bottom line of a company’s products. Patient nonadherence costs the nation’s health care system billions of dollars annually. In fact, it costs twice as much to treat the effects of nonadherence and lost employee productivity than it does to purchase all the drugs in the United States. The cost to pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry is staggering when patients do not fill their prescriptions.

The facts are alarming. Patients are trying to make wise decisions but often make potentially dangerous choices:

In the doctor’s office:
  • Approximately 10% – 20% of patients decide not to fill their prescription right in the doctor’s office and skip the pharmacy altogether. This is because the doctor has not convinced them why they need to take the medication.
After discharge from the hospital:
  • At least 50% of medication problems were due to patient nonadherence.
  • Of patients who had a medication adherence problem after discharge, 14% were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.
At the pharmacy:
  • Most patients cannot understand the computer-generated printouts stapled to their prescription bags.
At home:
  • After getting prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, 50% of patients on chronic therapies do not take their medications correctly for a variety of complex behavioral and drug response reasons.
  • At least 30% of prescriptions are not refilled, and more than 50% of patients drop out of therapy within the first year.
  • Patients will only stay in long-term therapy if they know how to monitor their progress and believe the drug is working.

The Washington Post (October 16, 2008) reported the results of a Rockefeller Foundation/Time Magazine survey. Consumers were asked the question: “In the past year, was there ever a time when you have not filled a medical prescription because of cost?” 23% responded “Yes”. These numbers are going to get worse because of the economy.

When patients decide to stop taking a prescription drug, they usually do not discuss their concerns with a health professional. Some of their reasons for stopping a medication include:


“I am not going to follow the treatment recommendations.”

“I think it is safer to try juicing, natural remedies, yoga first.”

“I am going to adjust the dose because this will lower my chance of developing side effects.”

“If I take half the dose, I will save money because the prescription will last longer.”

“I am not going to get my next refill because I don’t think the drug is working.”

“I am going to wait until I start to feel “sick” again.”

“I’ll look on the Internet, and cancel my appointment.”


Pharma companies need to make sure patients receive clear information they can understand Pharmaceutical companies need to make their product-specific FDA-approved Patient Package Inserts (PPIs) available in electronic format to pharmacies. This will ensure that patients receive high-quality and up-to-date patient information. Patients need different types of patient information at different stages of their therapies. Usually the same printouts are given at every pharmacy visit and patients just throw them away. Behavior modification techniques need to be integrated so that patients are motivated to stay in therapy in order to obtain the most therapeutic benefit. Until the needs of patients are met, patients will continue to make decisions that are not wise or safe.

Dr. Smith summarized that, “Patients can make or break the success of a product. Product teams that are able to meet the needs of their patients will not only survive these tough economic times but they will also recapture lost sales.”

About Consumer Health Information Corporation

Consumer Health Information Corporation is internationally recognized for our innovative and evidence-based patient education programs that increase patient adherence. The company was founded to help bridge the communications gap between patients and health professionals. The company specializes in the development of patient information programs that patients can understand and trust. The Consumer Health team customizes each patient information program by applying pertinent clinical research and patient adherence to the specific medical condition and the specific product. Patient counseling and behavior modification techniques are integrated with innovative and creative design so that the final patient education product meets the needs of the targeted patient population.

The company is full-service and develops a wide range of patient adherence programs from Phase III through product launches, FDA-approved Patient Package Inserts (PPIs), and consumer educational programs. For more than 25 years, the team of physicians, pharmacists and designers has produced a broad range of award-winning print and multimedia programs for pharmaceutical companies, consumer organizations, health care professionals, medical offices and corporate wellness programs. These FDA-approved materials have helped millions of people learn to make wise decisions about their health and medicines. Click here to view the company’s portfolio.

We work closely with all members of product teams (e.g., medical, marketing, regulatory, consumer advocacy) to develop programs that will enable product teams to maximize sales. Our behavior modification and reinforcement methodologies help motivate patients to stay in therapy and refill their prescriptions on time. Our drug information experts develop extensive documentation that the Regulatory team can use in their FDA submissions for approval of Patient Package Inserts.

The company has served on the Board of Directors for the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), the National Board of Advisors for the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, and the Dean’s Advisory Council for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center College of Pharmacy, and is also a teaching site for more than 30 schools of pharmacy across the United States.

About ACCP

The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) is a professional and scientific society that provides leadership, education, advocacy, and resources enabling clinical pharmacists to achieve excellence in practice and research. ACCP’s membership is comprised of practitioners, scientists, educators, administrators, students, residents, fellows, and others committed to excellence in clinical pharmacy and patient pharmacotherapy.