Want to improve drug adherence, pharma? Get tracking

Manish Gupta

If you're a pharma company, chances are you're thinking about how to get patients to stick to their meds. Missed refills create a "big problem" not only for patients' health, but for companies aiming for slam-dunk sales, Manish Gupta, CMO of global data firm Liaison Technologies, told FiercePharmaMarketing.

Sifting patient data could change all that, Gupta says. The thing is, drugmakers need an eye on all sorts of data streams to really track adherence--and make a difference in how patients take their meds.

The strategy involves a "combination of data and process," Gupta said. First, companies have to actually get the information from patients--or from their pill bottles. Drugmakers can mine social media, checking patients' Facebook or Twitter feeds to get information about an individual's experience with a med. And attaching tech tags or Bluetooth to drug containers can transmit information back to a data depository.

Then data from providers come into play, Gupta said. Companies can collect and map posts from hospitals and clinics where a patient got treatment, providing even more information about adherence. A drugmaker could see if a patient got a certain procedure, for example, or whether they were given a regimented follow-up.

The last piece of the puzzle would be payers, pharmacies and retailers, which add "another dimension" to drug-adherence tracking, Gupta said. This part shows up in new drug adherence platforms as companies team up with pharmacies to track how often a patient refills a prescribed medication.

Still, "no one piece of data is going to give you adequate" info to form a drug-adherence tracking system, Gupta said. All 5 sources have to be used together to allow pharma companies to track patients and ultimately spur drug adherence, he added.

"Pharma is starting to put a lot of emphasis on mechanisms that allow for better tracking of consumption," Gupta said. "There are avenues that are technical or marketing in nature that try to improve patient adherence statistics. With insights, pharma or hospitals can communicate with patients to improve adherence and long-term care."

Gupta declined to name specific examples of pharma companies using the strategy to their advantage, but said Liaison has worked "on a number of projects" where custom-blended data has been used to drugmakers' advantage. The trend will only continue to grow, he added. Companies such as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Sanofi ($SNY) are launching apps aimed at drug adherence, demonstrating a shift toward new technologies and increased communication with patients.

"We've seen the frequency increase, and most pharma companies in the top 20 are embarking on how they can get better insights and more real-time information from sources so their business decisions are better and not lagging behind," Gupta said. "We can only anticipate that pharma is going to get more aggressive about leveraging the data and putting forth mechanisms to foster the behavior."