Enhanced Communications Have An Impact

On January 4th, Express Scripts put out a press release about consumers using a home delivery pharmacy being more likely to choose lower-cost therapies. It is an interesting study as published in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. I had the fun job of designing the program as one of my projects before I left Express Scripts. I will never forget my boss coming to me and asking me to think about how we could drive market share movement of several large drugs if we took them off formulary (i.e., Lipitor). He handed me a white paper written the year before on what to do. Since he was new, I didn’t give him too much grief since I was the author of the white paper from the year earlier about what we should have been doing for the past 12-months to prepare for this.

Anyways, I pulled a lot of input and created a great single-frame image which showed the major constituents and the tools/tactics we would use to drive market share both pre-formulary change and post-formulary change. I went back to my day job, but the image became the roadmap for a multi-modal communications strategy. As was my intention (since I was responsible for mail order), it looks like it worked both to move share and to show how mail could be better than retail.

Here are a few of the highlights from the press release:

  • Express Scripts evaluated consumer behavior after they made a change to the formulary positioning of cholesterol lowering drugs to prepare for Zocor going generic in mid-2006.
  • They looked at more than 200,000 retail and mail patients.
  • All patients got a formulary notification letter informing them of their therapeutic options, materials for their physician, a website for more information, and toll-free number to call. [2 years earlier I had created the business case for mass mailings of formulary notification letters.]
  • The IVR refill line included messaging about switching to a formulary agent, and we placed automated outbound calls to mail order patients [using Silverlink Communications].
  • Patients that were interested were queued up for a change at mail after 1/1/06 (so as not to lose rebates for our clients in 2005).
  • Obviously, other plan factors (i.e., copay differentials, step therapy) impacted choice. [I.e., if I only have to pay $5 more per month for a drug that I am used to, I probably won’t switch]
  • The results were great. 52% of the mail order patients and 33% of the retail patients chose to switch therapies.
  • Some of the retail patients were part of a rapid response program in which they received a letter telling them about their options in the therapy class right after they received their first fill of the non-formulary drug in the new year. [another program which I developed and launched for step therapy] Receiving this letter increased their likelihood of switching by 28%. [BTW – we tested this with letters vs. automated calls from Silverlink back in 2005 and the results were very similar.]

“Creating a dialogue with consumers is a crucial factor in successfully changing behavior and delivering value at the consumer level,” explains Emily Cox, Ph.D., senior director of research at Express Scripts. “Home delivery consumers received additional information and were more likely to seek further assistance through the Web and by calling Express Scripts. Enhanced communication clearly has an impact. The effectiveness of the rapid response program for retail consumers also supports the value of enhanced communications.”

As I have mentioned before on the blog, this was a great program. It proved that PBMs can influence market share. I was more than a little disappointed to see that after we moved all these patients to Zocor to take advantage of the generic then company than moves Lipitor back on formulary only to have to ask the patients to switch drugs again. [Fortunately, I was not there for these discussions.]



  1. Coordinated Communications « Patient Centric Healthcare - January 15, 2008

    […] Posted on January 15, 2008 by George Van Antwerp A few days ago, I talked about a press release from Express Scripts around formulary change programs to encourage patients to move to a different drug (same […]

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