Adherence and compliance? It’s a lifestyle choice.

Concepts such as ‘adherence’ and ‘compliance’ have become key components of pharma product strategies, playing a major role in the efficacy of a drug and, both directly and indirectly, in the drug’s commercial success. These are aspects of a drug’s effectiveness in which every stakeholder has a role to play. The patient, their healthcare professional, the payer, and the product manufacturer will each benefit from compliance and adherence – that is, the extent to which the patient correctly follows medical advice and in the context of pharmaceutical products, the extent to which the patient chooses to continue to take a medicine as prescribed.

Yet for all the efforts of every stakeholder to ensure compliance and adherence, it ultimately comes down to the choice of the patient. A patient makes choices based upon not only the benefit that the product will potentially bring them, but also upon how the product will affect their lifestyle. This was one of the topics covered in a recent conversation between ABPI Chief Executive Stephen Whitehead and Simon Davies, Chief Executive if Teenage Cancer Trust, at Patient Summit 2012 in London. Watch the conversation below.

Simon Davies starts by suggesting that the terms ‘adherence’ and ‘compliance’ are not helpful to patients, saying “we need to think radically differently about how we engage patients… with thinking about their medication and their relationship with it.” Whitehead agrees: “I hate the word compliance, I hate the word adherence, because they’re just not patient-friendly words”, he says, but “…I don’t know how we address it. What is patient-friendly language?”

Davies responds to this by emphasising the importance of lifestyle and points out the extent to which this is a key consideration for patients planning how and when to take medication.

I believe that Davies is right when he says to the pharmaceutical industry that we need to think radically differently about engaging patients. While every stakeholder has a role to play, pharmaceutical companies currently have significant, and largely unrealised potential to support patient compliance and adherence through better healthcare engagement.

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