Patient support programmes (PSP) which require people to pay some of the cost of their prescription drugs produce better outcomes than those which let patients receive their drugs completely free, a conference has heard.

PSPs which provide some financial support, plus nursing support, and which also require patients to pay some out-of-pocket drug costs produce "the best patient outcomes I have seen," according to Terri-Lynn Ledger, product manager for patient programmes, inflammation at Amgen Canada. With these arrangements in place, "amazing things happen," she told eyeforpharma’s Patient Summit conference in London this week.

"Patient investment from an emotional, cognitive and financing perspective is necessary for better patient outcomes," she said, adding: "less financial support is more." 

Support schemes are all about the patient - they must see the value of enrolling in a PSP, and the programme needs to be presented to them as optional, said Ms Ledger. Buy-in to the scheme by allied health care professionals, especially prescribers, is critical, and one of the strongest supports for patients in helping them adhere to their medication regimens is through regular telephone contact with nurses.

Whether it is the nurse or the patient who makes this contact, "there is a lot of power in that nurse call," Ms Ledger told the meeting. And this is not necessarily contained within the content or the context of the call - "it's the emotional connection," she said. For this reason, patients also prefer a phone conversation rather than an email or text - the emotional support makes a huge difference.

Helping patients adhere to their medication regimens has been described as the next frontier in healthcare innovation, and the costs of non-adherence to health care systems worldwide are huge. However, with the continuing rise in patient access to health information globally through digital media, and as information exchange platforms grow, the ability of healthcare systems to educate patients on treatment and the importance of adherence will also increase, Colin Wheeler, managing partner at marketing and communications specialist M2 Worldwide, told the conference.

Within industry, new technologies will change executive thinking about patient adherence, while the sector is at last recognising its new generation of adherence professionals and also embracing the principle that it is cheaper to keep a new customer than gain a new one, he said. Gaining new patients costs drugmakers an average of 62% more than retaining them, and non-adherence imposes an average loss of 36% per drug in terms of potential sales, while non-adherence also produces losses of brand equity, due to wrong assumptions of a drug's inefficacy, he warned.

A recent report from Capgemini has advised pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that they "need to start measuring what they leave on the table for each non-adherence percentage point, and to reorganise better to address the issue," said Mr Wheeler, who added: "this sums up where we stand at the moment."