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How Big Pharma Maintains Compliance, Brand Loyalty & Market Share

doctor writing prescription for elderly male patient

What makes pharma-created patient and caregiver education so insidious is the implied tone of ‘supporting the caregiver’ by providing coping skills. What it’s really about is winning their buy-in on the drug treatment regimen.

What can pharmaceutical companies do when their target audience cannot or will not comply with their prescribed medication recommendation? They target the caregiver, of course. For some patients, especially the mentally ill or the elderly, compliance is an issue.

And Big Pharma does not want patients to miss a single dose of their medication. Compliance techniques are very sophisticated, however, and a caregiver, rebranded as a “Partner in Care,” becomes a Partner in Profit.

Patient education is big business for pharma. One missed dose of hypertension medicine is not life-threatening but pharma has many medications that require regular doses to keep patients on the hook and on schedule.

There are numerous websites that are disguised to look like they are created by patient advocacy groups and legitimate healthcare organizations for caregivers of relatives with diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, cardiovascular disease, autism, Down’s Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, etcetera. By creating an organization and/or an online community, they are able to get large groups of people to buy into and share the marketing messages as they are fed by pharma.

Often, a patient suffering from symptoms is treated with medication as first line therapy as opposed to behavior modification, lifestyle changes, or alternative drugless therapies. Once they are on the first line therapy, it’s easy to get a patient to take another medication to deal with the side effects of the first medication. This is how a patient can end up on a dozen or more drugs daily.

Once medications become layered onto a patient’s itinerary, and they become dependent on them, it becomes difficult for the treating physician to tease out which medication is causing problems and which are actually helping the patient. That’s where the caregiver provides value to pharma. They help the patient to keep their schedule of drugs straight and to even help administer them on time.

What makes pharma-created patient and caregiver education so insidious is the implied tone of ‘supporting the caregiver’ by providing coping skills. What it’s really about is winning their buy-in on the drug treatment regimen. A quick Google search will yield hundreds of patient education sites, many of them aimed at caregivers.

Look to see who sponsors the site. Even if it’s a nationally recognized organization, like the American Heart Association (AHA), know that all of these organizations accept large donations from pharma and are therefore subsidized by a pro drug agenda. Therefore all content is shaped and managed by pharma to reinforce drug messaging.

Just before the launch of any new drug, pharma companies lobby for top sponsorship roles with major health organizations who hold annual events and have regular publications. While these major health organizations are supposed to be fair and balanced, this becomes impossible when the same Advisory Board of doctors is paid by pharma to sit on the board of health organizations.

Caregiver education is also a big focus for pharma because partners and/or caregivers are often at the doctor’s appointment with the patient. They may ask questions, take notes, or read the pharma-supplied brochures in the waiting room. These take-home education materials talk about the disease, but with marketing messages that reinforce the drug regimen interlaced throughout.

Patient compliance and caregiver reinforcement strategies are created before the drug is launched to complement the medical education provided to the prescription writers. Pharma designs these programs to get the target patients on their meds. A separate but integrated plan is created for spouses and/or caregivers to be sure medications are administered as prescribed—often called “Partners In Care” programs.

By building advocacy with caregivers, Pharma companies ensure compliance, further build their business by introducing new drugs to the patient regimen, and ensure profits by having an in-home sales person.

Note: This article was reprinted with permission. It was originally published by Collective Evolution and Focus for Health.


4 Responses to How Big Pharma Maintains Compliance, Brand Loyalty & Market Share

  1. Daryce Cram Reply

    September 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    If these people are adults they should stand up to the doctors, caregivers, etc and become responsible for their actions and tell them no. Just because a Doctor says you have to take some-
    thing you need a second opinion and do more research. After all a Doctor is not god.

  2. Rich Reply

    September 8, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Where is Nancy Reagan when we need her? Just say NO!

  3. Nora Edwards Reply

    September 9, 2016 at 8:22 am

    This is frightening. Too many people are getting sicker and sicker with medication piled upon medication. We think the doctor is our ally. But the doctor is paid by the insurance company which is in league with the pharmaceutical companies.
    Finding a true patient advocate is difficult at best.

  4. Hosting Reply

    October 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    The decision is the result of a fundamental impasse in modern healthcare. The heart of the refusal—which could well imperil children who would have received those vaccines—is a principled stand against the extremely high cost of many vaccines.

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