Design's the thing for consumer-friendly drugs

Big Pharma is learning that selling drugs isn't just about the drugs themselves. It's also about presentation. As the Financial Times reports today, more and more drugmakers are turning to design experts to create drug-delivery systems and packaging that pleases customers. "Drug companies used to be focused on the molecule," notes Arna Ionescu, who recently left the design consultancy Ideo to join Proteus Biomedical. "Now they are looking at other ways to retain value by focusing on the patient experience."

What does this mean? In India, AstraZeneca packages its cholesterol drug Crestor in transparent packs so that patients can visually examine the pills--a reflex action in a market where drug counterfeiting is rampant. The company has launched new Arimidex packaging that resembles a cosmetics case. "Women told us the old version reminded them they were cancer patients, not cancer survivors," AZ packaging chief Steve Richmond tells the FT.

Bayer has worked with Nintendo to develop a game-like glucose monitor for diabetic children. Novo Nordisk has five full-time designers and works with several outside design consultants; recently, the company introduced brightly colored "skins" to wrap around insulin pens.

Experts tell the FT that pharma is taking cues from the consumer products industry. Knowing that payers are looking for outcomes and patient partnerships, not just drugs, companies are designing products and packaging that are consumer-friendly, so that patients will actually use them. 

- see the FT story