Hand out prizes for adherence? West and HealthPrize team up to test the idea

Graham Reynolds

Imagine winning a gift card every time you take your medicine on time, or racking up points for refilling a prescription. If this sounds like a fantasy, take a look at pharma's latest gamification move. West Pharmaceutical Services ($WST) and HealthPrize Technologies are teaming up on a new, interactive initiative that encourages patients to take their medication and rewards them when they do.

West and HealthPrize's program uses an electronic drug delivery system that keeps track of when patients inject their medication, and gives them points when they meet their goals. The program aims to help treatments work better, and to prevent the sort of drop-off that leads to skipped refills and bad patient outcomes. Patients not sticking to their scripts ends up costing the U.S. healthcare system more than $290 billion in otherwise avoidable spending, and global revenue loss from individuals not taking their meds adds up to $564 billion, the companies said in a statement.

"The issue of patient compliance has become really critical," Graham Reynolds, vice president of marketing and innovation at West Pharmaceutical Services, told FiercePharmaMarketing. "Our attitude is, you can have the best drug molecule in the world, but unless the aspects of drug delivery come together, it's useless."

The program includes incentives for education as well as dosing. Patients win points every time they inject or refill a medication, but they can also earn points by taking quizzes online. Once patients rack up enough points, they can cash them in for rewards. Participants can choose smaller rewards more frequently or keep their eye on a larger prize, but patients tend to like smaller payoffs more often, said Katrina Firlik, HealthPrize's co-founder and chief medical officer.

"For most of the medications, the benefit to the patients is long term. That's one of the basic hurdles to overcome," Firlik said. "Our program gives the patient immediate feedback and points for injecting and refilling medication, and for educating themselves about the medication. It's a timely and exciting way to improve outcomes and make the patient experience more pleasant."

West plans to integrate its drug delivery systems into the program, including its SmartDose electronic wearable injector, SelfDose injector and ConfiDose injector, the company said in a statement. The Exton, PA-based company will also develop technology to help sync up its systems with HealthPrize's software. As of yet, the companies are not naming specific drugs that will be used in the system.

West Pharmaceutical is not the only pharma company delving into gamification. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) launched Track Your Health, a "gamified" app that aggregates patients' health data and cues behavioral changes. In September, Sanofi ($SNY) rolled out a new gaming app for children to help them manage their Type 1 diabetes.

Not to be outdone, Boehringer Ingelheim is also hard at work on its own gaming efforts. In 2012, the company unveiled Syrum, a Facebook computer game that encourages players to solve problems throughout the drug development process. Players can enlist help from Facebook friends and further the game by checking in through a mobile app.

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