Remember the caregivers: Thanks to aging boomers, they're pharma's next key demographic

Unpaid caregivers have always played an important role in healthcare, but thanks to rapidly aging populations and shrinking physician resources, they’re becoming critical. And that means they need to be critical for pharma, too.

In fact, drugmakers should treat the more than 43.5 million U.S. caregivers as an actual demographic group, as they do mothers or baby boomers, Syneos Health says in its trend prediction report for 2020.

Seven out of 10 of those caregivers—whom Syneos call "The Everyday HCP"—are immediate family members, and 60% live with the patient they support, the report says. They're influential voices when it comes time to make treatment decisions.

“There’s an opportunity for pharma to do a better job of interacting directly with this very powerful healthcare advocate who is often part of the critical conversation of change," said Leigh Householder, managing director of insights and innovation at Syneos Health.

One way to improve? Focus on the caregiver's health as well as the patient's. "It isn’t just telling the caregiver about a product, it’s helping the caregiver figure out how to manage two sets of healthcare concerns: the person they’re caregiving for and their own."

Drugmakers could suggest basic self-care such as blood-pressure checks or screening for diabetes and perhaps partner with a health system to follow up. A combination acute and wellness care appointment program could get a daughter preventive care while her aging mother receives treatments for an illness, Householder suggested.

Marketing messages directed at or including caregivers can be particularly important in conditions where their involvement is highest. For instance, Acadia’s branded TV campaign for Nuplazid to treat Parkinson's disease psychosis includes both the male patient and his wife’s perspective. Another campaign from Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma reached out to teens whose parents or family members have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to create art and video stories about their experiences.

As a blog post for clinical trial recruiter PatientCentra earlier this year noted, “Caregiver online behavior is not widely understood. That means there’s still room for innovation, as pharma marketers do their research, better understand the ins and outs of this population, and find exciting ways to offer medical solutions to people who need them.”