Although doctor recommendations are obviously a powerful factor in what medications are ultimately dispensed – much decision-making that impacts a pharma brand takes place during the key period after the script is written and before it’s filled. At this critical juncture, patients’ concerns and fears around factors like drug costs and side effects can outweigh a professional’s medical opinion and push patients to request a different drug, or not to fill the script at all.

According to our new ePharma Consumer® study, prescription medication costs are as important a consideration as doctor recommendations in patients’ treatment decisions. Half of patients who receive a prescription go online before filling it, and costs and side effects are the most researched topics at this time, with a third (33%) researching side effects and nearly as many (31%) seeking cost-related info. Consumers also look up other patients’ reviews of the treatment as well as availability of support services.

And this information they find online is swaying patients’ decisions on whether to fill a prescription – 26% of those who researched a medication online before filling a prescription asked their doctor to change it (as did 37% of psoriasis patients, 40% of Crohn’s patients and 47% of ulcerative colitis patients). Fifteen percent did not fill a prescription at all.

Given the importance of online information in patients’ medical decision making, brands should:

  • Utilize HCPs as a channel to distribute financial support information at the time of prescribing in order to boost chances that a script will be filled.
  • Ensure that product websites are easy to find and offer information and resources that help patients make final decisions.
  • Look beyond the brand website to ensure brand visibility in the broader digital ecosystem using promotion and partnerships.
  • Mine the rich data generated from patient online info seeking to get a better understanding of their mindset and motivators to influence behavior  - what are they struggling with? what are they saying about your brand? What are they searching for?
  • Also - don't forget to factor in the influence of pharmacists – nearly one third (30%) of patients who have filled a prescription at a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy say their pharmacist has recommended switching to a generic.

Of course, even after a script is filled, brands must grapple with the questions of how to ensure compliance and timely re-fills. Medication adherence has been an ongoing challenge for healthcare providers and payers, and there is no one solution to this problem. Certainly, more education of patients on the value and importance of adherence is needed, with a third of those taking prescription medication failing to recognize the negative impact that missing a dose has on their health.

Pharma brands have an important role to play in helping these patients to stay on therapy as directed, thereby improving patient outcomes and value to payers -- as well as their own performance.


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