The power-shift in the pharmaceutical environment

In this era of a strongly changing healthcare environment, it seems important to take a step back and assess the stakeholders and review their disease management power position in it.

There was a time that innovative pharmaceutical companies could rely on their R & D, their filled pipeline with promising compounds, their sales force and marketing machine. At this time companies in the healthcare area are facing intense and fast changes in global and local markets, R & D and technology, as well as in the social, environmental and legal context in which they are obliged to operate. In this challenging environment they need to recognize changes and act cohesively within a group or network in order to respond determinedly to market power shifts, strengthen their competitive edge and meet the needs of a wide group of stakeholders.

The patient plays an increasingly influential role in the process of prescribing drugs. The internet has, of course, played a major role in shifting the balance of power in the doctor-patient relationship. The doctor is no longer the oracle. People are becoming more interested in lifestyle, in drugs, and they know where to access the information. There is an increasing consumer awareness of drugs.

A recent study implemented by Patient Intelligence Panel in collaboration with Opinion Health in the United Kingdom showed the power of the patient in the GP’s practice. A survey was completed by 150 GPs and 488 chronically ill patients in the United Kingdom. The research showed that the patient is actively searching for information regarding their disease and will consult multiple sources. 94% of the patients ideally want to be involved in disease management decisions of which 32% wants to be fully involved. 99% of the GPs feel that they do involve the patient in some extent, while 81% of the patients actually feel that they are somehow involved in the treatment decisions. More remarkable was that 34% of the patients have asked for an alternative drug than the one suggested by the GP, and 69% of these patients did get the proposed alternative drug after discussing it with the GP.

The findings in this survey show the importance of providing accurate information regarding both a specific drug and the disease management around it. Patients are actively searching for information and therefore it is essential that you manage that information which is available.

Providing accurate information and service to the patient, one can increase adherence and therefore ensure long-term sales as non-compliance affects pharmaceutical companies. Although no precise estimates have been made as yet, it is suggested that 15-25% of prescriptions are not even filled by the patient. This constitutes a huge loss to the Pharmaceutical Market. Moreover, this figure does not include the loss of market due to the disenchantment of the patients with therapy (i.e., when therapy is not found to be beneficial, patients tend to suffer in silence rather than approach health practitioners*).

A strategy is as strong as its foundation. Managers in pharmaceutical companies need to understand the key-driving forces that affect their performance. In this healthcare environment they have to contend with the power of consumers as mentioned above. And therefore have to challenge themselves on how patient intelligent they really are.

Considering the fact that patients will continue to develop and become more knowledgeable, becoming powerful stakeholders in healthcare, being patient intelligent will become more important in the foreseeable future. Healthcare organizations will be challenged by all stakeholders to develop structured pathways with which to integrate the patients’ needs.

A start for developing such a pathway is to draw up a checklist on your patient.

  • What does he/she read? Which newspapers, journals, websites?
  • What happens on social networks and discussion forums on the topic of the disease?
  • What does the GP or specialist tell the patients when diagnosed?
  • How is the drug described by the healthcare professional? And is adherence and working mechanism explained properly?
  • Are patient information leaflets you provide accurate? Is the information on your patient information website accurate?
  • What is it that the patient needs in terms of additional information or services?

By using the patient’s voice in research for numerous issues, healthcare organizations will be able to validate common beliefs regarding diseases. Additionally, they can provide accurate information, which the patients can use to be more compliant and/or improve quality of life. When worked out in a structured way, the patient can be involved in the decision-making process related to his or her own disease management (within boundaries). These aspects will improve quality in healthcare through improving quality standards.

Patients have become powerful stakeholders in the pharmaceutical environment, let’s listen to them to improve quality of healthcare on a global level.

* N. van Dongen, Lets be effective, let the patients talk, DovePress Patient Intelligence Journal, 2009


In the changing environment created by emerging channels such as the Internet, Creation Healthcare is trusted by pharmaceutical companies worldwide as a partner in strategy development. If you would like a no-obligation conversation with a member of Creation Healthcare’s team, contact us now.

Nadine Van Dongen

Fluent in Dutch and English, Nadine Van Dongen is a member of Creation Healthcare's international consultant team, and is based in the United Kingdom.