#PhRMA12 Panel 1 Recap: Do More for Patients

#PhRMA12 Panel 1 Recap: Do More for Patients

04.12.12 | By Kate Connors

We often say that a medicine sitting on a pharmacy shelf isn't benefiting anyone. By the same token, a medicine that sits in a patient's cabinet isn't helping that patient, either.

During a panel on how to improve health outcomes through prevention, adherence and innovation, panelists spoke about how to improve the ways that patients comply their their prescribed treatment regimens.

According to Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumer League: "It's a very expensive problem, the problem of medication adherence. Three out of four people, when they get a prescription, don't take it as directed."

Ron Williams, Former Chairman and CEO of Aetna, highlighted a study about use of statins, noting that an effort that improved the compliance rate from 31 percent to 39 percent was a "massive failure," because for the best health outcomes, the compliance rate must be much higher.

In fact, he said, one problem that challenges adherence is what he called "a lack of patient literacy," calling for ways to better convey to patients the need for taking their medicines as directed. "Hypertension is one good example. People feel fine so don't think they need their medicine."

National Health Council Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office Marc Boutin talked about an ideal scenario: "We need to do a comprehensive assessment of the patient and then you can deliver the tools and information that are meaningful to them. And when you have systems that coordinate care and meet the needs of the individual, you start to see empowerment that works. Some of the early models show greater health outcomes, greater satisfaction among patients, and greater satisfaction among providers. It's about getting the patient the care they need and making sure that what you're doing is something they will be compliant with."

However, Williams noted, it will take a significant effort and patience to update healthcare systems to get them to this ideal point. "The good news is that one day, the whole delivery system will be organized that way. The bad news is, it's going to be a long, long, long, long time. But as a destination, it's a wonderful destination."

And while it is up to the healthcare systems to evolve in a way that allows them to provide these services, they also must do so in a way that keeps them affordable, he said. "You have to bill for the average, not for the extremes. Access to care that isn't affordable isn't access."

What will help us develop these systems is patient demand. And as Greenberg noted, that demand is there: "They are ready for that communication to flourish and they want that to happen. We owe it to them to do whatever we can to make the process work efficiently for them and make them understand how important it is to stay with their medication profile."

Greenberg and Boutin both agreed that one way that we can better communicate information is to simplify that information. "More," said Boutin, "is not necessarily better."

Moderator Sheila Burke, from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, asked whether adherence could be improved by healthcare plans adopting more simplified treatment regimens.

Boutin emphasized, in response, that we must have sufficient treatment options: "As a patient advocate, one drug per class is not acceptable and in some cases may be deadly."

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateAtPhRMA.

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