Beat Noncompliance off with a Package

During the First Annual Blister Roundtable, hosted by Uhlmann Packaging Systems (Towaco, NJ), speaker Bill Sharpless pointed out some startling statistics about drug noncompliance. Sharpless is global market director for Alcoa Flexible Packaging (Richmond, VA), and he was formerly with Honeywell.

Quoting statistics from a variety of sources, he reported that nonadherence rates for medications range from 30 to 60%, and that more than a quarter of emergency room visits are because of medication misuse. Pharmaceutical companies lose $30 billion annually because of nonadherence and failure to fill prescriptions, he said.

He also pointed out that doctors routinely switch patients from one drug to another when patients report that the drug no longer works. “Could the drug no longer work because of noncompliance?” he asked.

He reported results from one of the focus groups conducted by Honeywell in which pharmaceutical sales representatives were interviewed to identify key influences in prescription therapy. According to their reports, “next to side effects, poor compliance is often the reason used for product switch to another brand or drug category,” he explained. And when healthcare providers were interviewed, they concluded that “noncompliance is a contributing factor to the rising costs of healthcare,” and that “patients failing to take their prescribed medications end up with serious complications that may require hospital stays and/or expensive medical procedures.” Also, packaging was not considered when writing a prescription, the study determined.

To counter nonadherence, Sharpless said that “blisters alone are not the answer.” He recommended pharmaceutical packaging with six key functions: storage, education, cueing, monitoring, dispensing, and reinforcement. The Z-Pak for Zithromax is an example of one such package, he said.

Packaging should be part of an “optimal persistency program,” he said, pointing to Novartis’ Healthy BP program, of which its compliance calendar package is just one part.


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