Evolving the Patient Support Program to Gain Competitive Advantage

Patient support programs (PSP) available for pharmaceutical/biotechnology products or therapeutic areas have unique features and benefits. While there are notable differences across programs, there are some common elements found across many programs. These features consist of hub-based employees, outreach services/program introductions, educational resources, access support, and clinical services. Pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies continue to evolve their programs because PSP offerings ultimately determine engagement levels of patients, caregivers, and physicians. Further, companies with unique and highly-valuable PSP services can gain a competitive advantage if competitors have inferior PSP services.

Many leading pharmaceutical/biotechnology players have used the hub model for decades and outsource their patient support programs to third-party vendors with contract employees. Hub employees, contracted or not, provide appeals assistance, educational resources/tools, and outreach assistance to patients. Usually, patients are assigned a dedicated PSP employee at enrollment. This connection and continuity of care creates strong, long-term relationships and can potentially increase patient compliance. Some hubs also offer clinical services where nurses or other healthcare professionals provide some medical services. In recent years, the Fletcher/CSI Life Sciences team has found that fewer PSPs offer injection training services – which has been one of the commonly offered clinical services. Instead, many companies now rely on physicians and online product training videos to provide clinical support.

PSPs do dedicate more resources to access support, which is critical during a time of increasing drug price criticism. Manufacturers with top of the line access support services may have a competitive advantage. One example is the emergence of new ‘maximizer programs,’  which were established in response to accumulator adjustment programs used by insurance companies. These maximizer programs allow patients to receive discounted product prices and can work around the patient’s deductible or out-of-pocket maximum. Some programs use coupons acquired by negotiating volume discounts with different pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). One such program, run by GoodRx, collects prices and discounts from over 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and enables patients to save up to 80% on their medications. Other programs focus on cost savings strategies for self-funded employers. These programs focus on helping employers deal with specialty pharmaceutical costs.

Companies must continuously evolve their PSP offerings in response to market dynamics if they want to maintain patient loyalty and perform better than their competitors. Recently two large pharmaceutical companies adjusted and expanded the PSP programs for their diabetes products to address increasing insulin prices and diminishing patient adherence. Merck, along with Healthy Interactions, launched a digital platform and mobile application – map4health. This program hopes to improve diabetes patient support quality by offering  live coaching sessions through text and video-chat, as well as weekly digital activities to engage patients. Lilly recently opened the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center as a solution to improve financial access for its diabetes patients. This center is a helpline is staffed with representatives who can identify personalized solutions for patients experiencing insulin affordability issues. The helpline staff will find point-of-sale savings, identify free clinics, and educate on long-term insulin needs.

Patient support programs must evolve with to meet changing patient needs and still be flexible with those adjustments. Pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies must also closely examine the market dynamics that impact specific therapeutic areas and the macro-level factors that influence the broader healthcare landscape as they make program adjustments. To ultimately deliver competitive advantage, pharmaceutical companies must constantly monitor competitive PSP offers and adjust where needed to stay on top.  Fletcher/CSI has tracked the evolution of PSPs since our founding thirty years ago and has deep expertise in this space. If you want to enhance your PSP offerings or update your understanding of PSP features and benefits, please contact Cinda Steele via [email protected] or 610-496-0080.

– Angela Krywanczyk, Life Sciences Analyst, Fletcher/CSI