I think we all know that medication adherence is a big deal. The most common number quoted is the $290B waste number from NEHI. There are numerous studies that confirm the value of non-adherence even one that just came out.
The amount of money spent on trying to improve adherence is huge! Pharma has worked on. Retail pharmacies have worked on it. Providers have worked on it. Insurance companies have worked on it. Employers have worked on it… And all of these have happened across the world.
At the same time, you see people get so excited about things don’t make any sense to me.
Let me take an easy example. A few months ago, a company called MediSafe put out a press release around moving medication adherence on statins up to 84.25%. Nothing against the company, but I read the press release and reached out to them to say “this is great, but it’s only 2 months of data…most people drop therapy after the first few months so who care…call me back when you get some good 12 month data.”
But, a lot of people got all excited and there was numerous press about this – see list of articles about them.
Now, tonight, I see another technology getting similar excitement. Fast Company talks about the AdhereTech technology which integrates a cellular phone with a pill bottle. And, it costs $60 a month. In my experience, companies wouldn’t even spend $2 a month to promote adherence so $60 is just impractical. The argument is that this is good for high cost specialty drugs that are oral solids not injectables. But, this isn’t a new idea. Glowcaps already built this model with a very slick interface and workflow.
And, I don’t know about you, but I think this would be obnoxious. And, I love data and am part of the QuantifiedSelf movement. I’m not sure I understand the consumer research here. I would have to believe all of the following to buy into this model.
- Non-adherence people are primarily not adherent due to no reminders to take their medication on a daily basis.
- People with chronic conditions that require high cost specialty drugs are going to change behavior because some bottle sends them a text message.
- Manufacturers or some other healthcare company is willing to pay $60 a month for this service.
- There won’t be message fatigue after a few months (weeks) of messaging.
- Pharmacies would be have to be willing to change their workflow to use these bottles.
Yes. Will this work for some people…sure. But, if it helps 10% of people, then my cost is really $600 per success.
Should we be working on better solutions to address adherence…of course.
But, let’s stop trying to figure out some gimmick to fix adherence. Let’s look at root cause.
- People don’t know why they’ve been given a medication.
- People don’t understand their disease.
- People can’t afford their medication.
- People don’t know what to expect in terms of side effects.
- People don’t see value in improving adherence.
- People don’t know they have to refill their medications.
- People aren’t health literate.
We have a lot of problems.