Up to 50% of patients may not be taking their medication as prescribed. Tassilo Korab, Executive Director for the European Healthcare Packaging Compliance Council, explains how the Pharmaceutical Industry can optimise packaging to increase chronic patient compliance.
Pharma IQ: What are the key concerns within the pharmaceutical industry, where packaging and labelling are concerned?
Tassilo Korab: There are several issues, but in my opinion the key concern that the pharmaceutical industry has is the lack of new blockbuster drugs available and the need to rely on the earnings from existing drugs. The other for me is to keep patients on therapies, which can be helped by the right form of packaging.
Pharma IQ: Can you explain how packaging can actually help keep patients on therapies?
Tassilo Korab: Patients I speak to have concerns about packaging. Directions are not always very clear on how to take the medication, from the right intake, time and dose. Many of the packs that they get are a hurdle to helping them rather than keeping them track.
Pharma IQ: Tassilo you are presenting at the Packaging and Labelling Summit, who will your presentation be geared towards and what can those organisations do to improve on patient compliance?
Tassilo Korab: My presentation will aim at two groups within the pharmaceutical industry; the brand owners, who have the most interest in keeping the patients on their therapies and the pack developers and designers, who can implement the features that will assist patients to stay on the therapy.
Pharma IQ: Can explain what those features actually are?
Tassilo Korab: In pharmacies on the continent and in the UK, long-term therapy medications have no visual features to help the patient to see whether he has taken the medication on a specific day; so calendar packs would be one fine example to help patients to keep track.
There are more sophisticated features, like electronic reminders, etc, and these would be very helpful when it comes to critical health conditions, where a high level of compliance is needed in medication for chronic diseases, like HIV for example. And yet, very often the packs do not take into account the difficulties that the patients have in keeping track.
Pharma IQ: What technology can organisations implement to maximise patient compliance, and therefore improve packaging?
Tassilo Korab: I think technologies are available. The pharmaceutical industry will have to make a simple calculation to see whether the minor investment into these solutions will pay off. And I think the return on investment that we can show in some case studies are such that the brand owners and the pharmaceutical industry shouldn’t think twice. It’s a very straightforward exercise to see that there is a very high return on investment.
Pharma IQ: How can improved packaging and investment impact on the organisation’s profit margin?
Tassilo Korab: A patient who doesn’t take the medication in the way it’s prescribed will not get better, or will not be able to stabilise his health condition, and therefore, he will go back to the physician, who subsequently will prescribe a different drug because obviously the first one didn’t work. That is lost turnover for the pharmaceutical industry. It is much easier for a pharmaceutical company to keep a patient on a therapy than finding new patients for that very same therapy.
Pharma IQ: Will we see a tightening of European regulations in the coming year, where packaging is concerned?
Tassilo Korab: Last year we saw the falsified medicines directive passed, which will have to be implemented into national law throughout Europe, so 2016 the pharmaceutical industry will have to implement whatever comes out in the national law as the way forward to fight counterfeits.
I think that the European or international standard for ease of opening is still being worked on and may filter in a standard that will require further investments by the pharmaceutical industry. This will be to the benefit of the manufacturers, because we have to bear in mind that whatever consists as a hurdle between the patient and the medication makes it more difficult for the patients to stay on the therapy, and that, as I said before, might be a loss in turnover.
The same goes for the counterfeits, once people are aware that there are counterfeits on the market, they will not take the medication, which leads to a loss of turnover, but also a reduced level of public health and that endangers us all.
Pharma IQ: Tassilo, thank you so much for your time this afternoon, and we look forward to hearing you speak again at the conference, which is the Pharmaceutical Packaging and Labelling Conference, which is taking place on June 27th in Basel.
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