EDITORIAL: Enhancing Your Unit Doses
Since most pharmaceuticals in Europe are packaged in unit-dose formats, it’s reasonable to assume that Europe is further along than the United States in encouraging patient compliance with drug regimens. After all, I am told regularly, unit-dose packaging helps patients follow regimens.
But a recent call to action by Len Starnes, head of European e-business for Schering AG Germany, suggests that European drug marketers still have a lot of work to do to encourage compliance. U.S. drug firms should take note as Europe refines its approach.
According to Starnes, “there is no agreement about who is really responsible for improving compliance. Stakeholders refuse to think long-term.” Starnes will be speaking at eyeforpharma’s Patient Compliance Conference Europe in Amsterdam on February 21–22. The firm has also produced a free report on how pharmaceutical firms should approach patient compliance initiatives.
According to eyeforpharma, Starnes believes that industry must work toward a better understanding of the causes of noncompliance. Items to consider include a patient’s relationship with his or her disease, the chosen therapy, and the people involved in treatment. “That knowledge will be used to build better outcomes and cost-effective programs,” he says.
With Starnes’s points in mind, I asked Thomas Dries, chairman of the European Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council, why Europe is still struggling with noncompliance. While “the European healthcare market is highly mature as far as the use of unit-dose packaging is concerned, the unit-dose concept has not matured at all,” he says. ”This still holds for both the United States and Europe.”
To help patients comply, Dries urges manufacturers to find creative solutions for packaging designs that enhance healthcare compliance, patient safety, and brand loyalty. Packagers are listening. ”In the last two to three years, more and more pharmaceutical companies are rediscovering the values of unit-dose packaging in the context of healthcare compliance, patient safety, and brand protection,” he says.
And that means choosing more than just a blister. ”In the European market, we see more-enhanced unit-dose packaging concepts for solid and nonsolid dosage forms emerging,” Dries says.
Starnes continues to say that ”retaining patients and increasing adherence can make sound business.”
Dries agrees, pointing out the important role that packaging plays. ”If the package gets more patients to adhere to the drug on a sustainable basis, there will be higher revenue and faster growth,” Dries says.
Compliance packaging also lends a competitive advantage. ”Pharmaceutical companies will no longer only compete for more- effective drugs with fewer side effects,” says Dries. ”The competition will focus on the following three intertwined topics: Patient loyalty, patient adherence, and patient satisfaction.”
U.S. drug firms, too, seek patient loyalty. So perhaps they should follow Europe’s lead—and renewed effort—when designing packaging. Unit-dose packaging in its most basic form won’t do the trick entirely. But carefully designed unit-dose packaging that offers patient information and guidance will definitely encourage compliance. And a compliant patient is a loyal one.