February 16, 2016

Big Pharma's Pill Push to Patients

This day was coming. Back in November 2012, I wrote about smart pills and what some of this meant, but I suspected that it would take a few more years for the drug companies to really ramp up their intentions. We can now see that they don't care about those that live on limited incomes and can't afford their high priced drugs; they are going to force people to take them.

Around the world, drug companies are spending big money to push patients into taking their drugs. According to this article, the drug industry loses tens of billions in worldwide sales each year when patients don't bill, or refill, their prescriptions.

Therefore, the drug makers from all countries are spending money for programs aimed at nagging patients to take every pill their doctors prescribe. The drug companies are investing in smart pills that will send alerts when they haven’t been swallowed at the prescribed time. They’re subsidizing gift cards to thank patients who remember to refill. They're also paying patients to go on talk circuits to tout the virtues of taking medications properly.

In the USA, they're lobbying the federal government for permission to pay third parties, such as pharmacists, to encourage patients to take their pills. The drug companies say these investments are focused on improving patients’ health. “We’re not pushing pills here, we’re pushing adherence,” said Joel White, president of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, an advocacy group that works with the industry.

But, Matt Lamkin, an assistant professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law who’s studied the issue, sees another motive. Pharma companies have the sense “that they are leaving billions on the table” when medicine isn’t taken and prescriptions aren’t filled, Lamkin said. The push to improve adherence, he said, “reframes the goal of boosting sales as a goal of public service.”

It is a complicated problem because patients may decide not to fill prescriptions because they don’t have the money or need food. Another big reason pills are skipped; they just don’t work very well. Significant percentages of patients don’t respond to the medications they’re prescribed or experience serious side effects.

I would also be concerned, as this will be expanded to know which doctors are prescribing which medications and pressure will be applied there to promote prescribing. I would urge you to read the full article.

I have written another blog titled, Not Taking a Medication – Who Is to Blame? This should be read as it explains some of the real problems facing patients about prescribed medications.

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