Industry Trends: Big Pharma’s Engagement with Consumers

Industry Trends: Big Pharma’s Engagement with Consumers

It is not a secret that pharmaceutical companies continue to face an increasingly challenging regulatory and reimbursement environment. However, with the growing trend in consumerism, pharmaceutical companies in 2017(and on) are looking to better engage with patients to justify prices, show value, and satisfy the criticism of regulators who want them to work more closely with the people who use their products.

Among these changes and challenges, companies are developing inventive ways to engage with patients, including mobile apps and other technology based services.  A mobile app developed by a large pharmaceutical manufacturer helps patients remember to take its once-per-week diabetes drug at the appropriate times and learn how to use the drug’s injection device correctly.  Another company launched a program to help patients with inflammatory bowel disease track their symptoms using a smartwatch application.

These mHealth (mobile health) apps and services are being developed as ‘engagement with consumers’ and are starting to be written into regulations and contracts with the government.  Patient engagement will become a core part of the FDA’s regulatory approvals process as part of the planned reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act in 2017. Major insurers such as Aetna and Cigna are entering into deals with drug makers to pay for products based on performance.

Consumers, facing higher deductibles and financial responsibility, are looking to drug companies for added benefits and assurance that their products are worth the much higher spend vs. the alternatives. As with most benefits nowadays, consumers are looking for personalization, which is only possible with an understanding of consumer preferences. For example, individuals age 25 to 34 are more willing to incorporate ‘gamification’ or electronic technology into their treatment if they were diagnosed with a health problem. Older consumers are far less open to the new mobile and social media trends. These pharma researchers are finding that unique needs offer themselves to unique solutions, and they should be prepared to think creatively. A solution that works for younger patients may need to be reimagined for the elderly.

Government emphasis on patient engagement may increase the value of pharmaceutical companies offering services to providers that help patients as well by collecting, analyzing and understanding their own health data and health conditions. Companies able to identify and meet patients’ needs may have more success with regulators who increasingly are focusing on patient engagement.

You will see more and more mHealth technology in the future that puts the power of information and data in the hands of all constituents of health care, most importantly, the consumer.