What can pharma do about penny-pinching patients?

In Europe, governments have been crimping pharma's style by forcing prices downward. In the U.S., consumers may end up doing the same thing. According to the Wall Street Journal, more and more patients are simply refusing to pay for their prescriptions because they can't afford it, either because their co-insurance is too high or because their high-deductible insurance plans force them to foot the entire bill--which, for branded drugs, can be substantial.

"Abandonment," a.k.a., patients refusing an already filled prescription, was up by 55 percent during the second quarter of this year when compared with four years ago. One pharmacy reported that more than 100 scrips are abandoned each week, compared with seven per week just last year. Some doctors are moving patients to generics--and away from branded meds they prefer--just to make sure that the patients will actually end up using the drugs.

The WSJ notes that drugmakers' assistance programs are helping more patients than ever. One company that processes those claims says they're up to 500,000 per month from 300,000 at the end of 2009.

When around 10 percent of brand-name scrips are abandoned at the pharmacy, that puts a damper on drugmakers' sales. How pharma can respond to it--beyond expanding their patient assistance programs even further--is up for grabs.

- read the WSJ piece