NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 15, 2006

"Take-your-medicine" programs are part of a sales and marketing strategy that is gaining urgency for drug makers experiencing slowing sales. As it turns out, the industry leaves billions of dollars on the table -- or the pharmacy shelves -- annually because people do not take their drugs as often or as long as prescribed, says the New York Times.

  • Many studies show that patients who do not take drugs as prescribed risk more serious and expensive complications, and the drug industry loses billions of dollars a year because people do not follow their prescriptions.
  • Research has shown that people stop following prescriptions because of forgetfulness or a lack of urgency about taking treatments for long-term ailments, or because drugs are too expensive, cause unpleasant side effects or do not work.
  • Organizers of industry programs -- which sometimes include phone call reminders and discounts on refills -- say they provide "services like 24-hour-a-day call centers that many doctors cannot."

Kerr Holbrook, vice president for marketing at McKesson's specialty pharmaceuticals division, says, "We are an extension of the physician's office." However, some medical experts "worry about consumers' privacy or the possibility of undermining doctor-patient relations," the Times reports.

Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School, says patients who do not follow prescriptions are a major problem for both public health and the drug industry, but he added that the industry's programs are more "about brand loyalty and not about public health."

Source: Andrew Pollack, "Take Your Pills, All Your Pills," New York Times, March 11, 2006.

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