Columbus, Ohio—You’ve heard the stats. Pharmaceutical companies lose $188 billion a year in revenue due to medication non-adherence1; nearly 1 in 3 patients don’t fill their prescriptions; 3 in 4 don’t take them as prescribed.2For brand managers, these numbers represent opportunity to move the needle. But the adherence issue is so nuanced with psychological underpinnings it’s a challenge to know how to make an impact. The reasons for non-adherence vary from financial to forgetfulness and can even be rooted in the patient’s doubts about the seriousness of their illness and whether the medication will be helpful to them. Most times it’s a combination of factors2.

Here are some points to ponder when considering an Adherence Program:

New developments abound

From pre-sorted PillPacks to ingestible sensors that transmit information about the patient’s adherence based on their stomach fluid, there are some great ideas in motion to impact adherence. Don’t be limited by past tactics. Check out other developments or invent your own. See PM360’s 12 New Tools for Improved Adherence.

There are no one-hit-wonders

Loyalty cards may speak to the percentage of patients driven by financial incentives. Glow caps may influence forgetful patients. But, a comprehensive adherence program will include strategies and tactics to address many factors; not just one facet. Prioritize your brand’s adherence issues and match up ways to tackle each, one-by-one.

Adherence begins before the script is written

We often think of acquisition and adherence as two separate programs. The truth is that they are very much connected. One of the key influencers of adherence is whether the patient believes that the drug is worth taking, which can begin well before the patient enters the doctor’s office. Think holistically about the consumer experience with your brand throughout the entire patient journey.

Changing behavior is challenging; not impossible

Influencing human behavior is no easy task. Take a page out of the marketing playbooks of organizations like Weight Watchers, Kiva, or FairTrade that have cracked the code on creating new habits. Create your own strategies to reward small changes or empower people to pay it forward.

As marketers, it’s tempting to think so broadly about adherence that we question our ability to impact it. On the flip side, we can get so micro-focused on one strategy or tactic that we consider it a tick in the adherence checkbox. For 2015 adherence program planning, take a fresh look at the whiteboard. Could shifting our thinking revolutionalize patient support the way it has revolutionalized other industries?

Let’s create a new equation: Adherence Program = Brand Loyalty.




About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.