Adherence to specialty drugs is essential for managing and treating chronic and complex conditions. However, pharmaceutical companies face a myriad of unique challenges in medication adherence to specialty drugs. In fact, a study on specialty populations revealed that 58 percent of patients were non-adherent to drugs for treating chronic conditions.
With that said, pharmaceutical companies can still improve medication adherence with the right technology and strategic approach to patient engagement. Learn the steps you can take to improve adherence to specialty drugs:
The Challenge of Medication Adherence to Specialty Drugs
Improving medication adherence requires pharmaceutical companies to have a comprehensive understanding of the barriers that lead to non-adherence. The most common reasons for non-adherence to specialty drugs include:
High, ever-increasing drug costs are a significant barrier to adherence—especially for specialty medications. The overall average cost per specialty claim rose from $4,879 in 2018 to $5,029 in 2019, and these numbers are likely to continue rising in years to come. Plus, most specialty drugs (especially biologics) lack a generic counterpart, with biosimilars being the closest option available to patients treating chronic conditions.
Access to specialty drugs is also a barrier to adherence. Because most specialty medications are dispensed at specialty pharmacies due to handling and monitoring requirements, they’re often not as readily available to patients. As such, specialty drug access challenges can lead to issues with therapy initiation and adherence.
Many specialty drugs have challenging administration requirements. For example, injections and infusions are specialty medications that are difficult for patients to administer themselves. This can also create medication adherence challenges for specialty drug pharmaceutical companies. Often there is a need for support and education from a healthcare professional.
In addition to recognizing adherence barriers, developing a clear understanding of the consequences of non-adherence is also critical to effectively educate patients on the importance of compliance. Although consequences can be detrimental for non-specialty drugs as well, they’re even more prominent for medications to treat chronic conditions that use specialty medications, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and more.
How to Improve Medication Adherence to Specialty Drugs
Similar to specialty pharmacies and prescribers, pharmaceutical companies are also committed to improving medication adherence rates for specialty drugs. Here’s how:
Financial Assistance Programs
Many pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance programs for patients who cannot afford the high cost of specialty drugs. Pharmacy rebates, co-pay cards, and high-cost specialty drug management programs can all ease the financial burden for uninsured and underinsured patients.
Specialty Pharmacy Access
Finding and building a relationship with a specialty pharmacy can also help improve adherence. In many cases, pharmaceutical companies partner with specific specialty pharmacies to improve patient access and adherence to medications. These specialty pharmacies often have programs that help with reminding patients about their medication refills, and have staff available to support patients and caregivers.
Patient Support Programs
Patient support programs are a great way to educate patients and intervene when they fail to adhere to prescribed specialty drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to see the role artificial intelligence (AI)—or “smart data”—plays in deploying more effective, targeted interventions to engage patients and boost adherence.
Utilizing Smart Data to Improve Specialty Drug Adherence
Smart data empowers healthcare organizations to improve the effectiveness of patient support programs focused on increasing therapy initiation and medication adherence. In utilizing AI, pharmaceutical companies can refine patient support programs to deliver the right intervention via the right channel to the right patient at the right time.
For example, many modern patient support programs incorporate omnichannel technologies, including intervention channels ranging from text messages and in-app notifications to phone calls and in-person conversations. Some patients require higher-touch interventions—such as in-person consultations to provide education on various specialty drugs and disease states—whereas others benefit more from text message reminders to take and refill their medications.
Curious about using smart data to improve adherence to specialty drugs? Schedule a demo to see AllazoHealth’s AI Engine in action.
About the Author
Dr. Linda Schultz
Dr. Linda Schultz is a results-oriented Healthcare Pharmacy Executive who excels at leading transformational, top-notch, interdisciplinary healthcare teams to create and execute outcomes driven clinical operations and account management initiatives. Dynamic and knowledgeable in all healthcare business segments, most passionately within the complex Medicare, Duals and Medicaid markets, she is an accomplished, creative motivator and driver of innovative quality and cost of care pharmacy interventions. Dr. Schultz is currently VP, Customer Success at AllazoHealth, a cutting-edge, healthcare artificial intelligence company. Prior to her leadership role at Allazo, Linda founded and led RxHorizons, LLC., an international healthcare consulting group. Her expertise stems from over 25 years of experience within the Managed Care industry, with a focus on leading, strategizing, developing and implementing pharmacy benefit management activities within national PBMs and health plans.