New MicroMass Study Finds Pharma Patient Support Programs Have Much Room for Improvement

Most Perform Unevenly; Many Top Brands Have No Program At All

Oct 18, 2011, 10:22 ET from MicroMass Communications, Inc.

CARY, N.C., Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Patient-centered care may be the future of American medicine and the focus of many consumer programs developed by pharmaceutical companies, but new research by behaviorists at MicroMass Communications reveals that few industry-sponsored patient support programs are truly patient-centric across all measures of effectiveness. More surprisingly, of 59 major brands for chronic health conditions, more than half have no patient support program at all.

Alyson Connor, partner and senior vice president of strategic and behavioral services at MicroMass, says that while there are legitimate reasons for some brands to exclude patient programs from their marketing mix or opt for programs with a more narrow focus, there is a clear opportunity for companies to reap multiple benefits by strengthening their patient support offerings.

"Done well, patient support programs help patients become knowledgeable participants in their own healthcare, which leads to smarter health decisions and better outcomes. A strong program can also help patients build better relationships with their physicians, help payers reduce costs and improve efficiency, and help pharma companies differentiate and add value to their brands. Trying to achieve all these goals with one program is a daunting challenge, and we set out to discover which brands are doing it best."

The Power of Six: How MicroMass Evaluated the Programs      

MicroMass identified six criteria vital to an effective patient support program, based on an extensive review of secondary literature and third-party studies and guidelines. The company used behavioral science to predict the drivers of positive health outcomes, also looking at other industries for a broad appreciation of factors that influence consumer perceptions and loyalty.

The six measurement criteria:

  1. Health Education Principles -- How differences in health literacy, culture and learning styles are addressed
  2. Treatment Attitudes -- How attitudes to treatment, including the necessity of medication and importance of compliance, are addressed
  3. Illness Perceptions -- How a program deals with perceptions and misperceptions about a given disease, including its seriousness, controllability and treatment options
  4. Patient-Provider Relationship -- How patients are given the information and tools for more productive relationships with care providers
  5. Social and Environmental Factors -- How patients are aided in overcoming  challenges such as social isolation, inability to afford a medication, or difficulties complying with a complicated regimen
  6. Marketing -- How a program reflects brand identity and delivers brand-enhancing experiences such as good customer service and follow-through

Within these six categories, MicroMass behaviorists developed a list of criteria and questions, assigning each a numeric value, allowing programs to be evaluated on a 100-point scale based on responses.

The study team then identified 13 chronic diseases and the 59 brands most commonly used to treat them, intending to use the patient support programs associated with these brands as the subjects of the analysis. Excluding brands that lacked a patient support program, as well as programs developed by MicroMass, the team ended up with 25 programs to evaluate.

Researchers registered for each program using two distinct patient profiles and systematically recorded and analyzed all materials received. They also examined professional marketing materials associated with the brands, but did not have access to patient resources developed for use in healthcare provider offices.

Key Findings          

The most surprising finding occurred before the study was fully underway, when the team discovered that a majority of target brands lacked a patient support program. A second early finding was that more than half of the programs studied failed to provide all materials promised. A third surprising discovery was that most programs perform inconsistently across the six evaluation criteria, scoring well in only one or two categories. 

Programs earning the best overall ratings focused on high-burden diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic myelogenous leukemia and diabetes. These programs performed 168 percent better than programs associated with lower-burden conditions.         

Who's Leading the Way?

The MicroMass study found that the top six patient support programs overall were from ENBREL® (Amgen/Pfizer) for its ENBREL Support™ program, BETASERON® (Bayer) for BETAPLUS® MS Support, Gleevec® (Novartis) for My CML Circle, Januvia® (Merck) for Steps to Balance,™ Victoza® (Novo Nordisk) for VictozaCare,™ and Rebif® (EMD Serono) for MS Lifelines® .

Connor also notes that even though no program performs equally well against all evaluation criteria, some are setting best-in-class standards in particular areas. "There are some real standouts within individual categories, like the Cymbalta® Promise Program™ from Lilly, which earned a perfect 100 percent rating for its effectiveness in addressing illness perceptions. In the areas where programs are good, they are very, very good."

Connor urges all brands to take a closer look at the potential value of patient support initiatives and evaluate existing programs against the six criteria established for the MicroMass study. "This is especially important in chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, where adherence is a significant issue and the diseases are best controlled by a combination of medication and positive lifestyle behavior change. An effective patient support program lets you explore all aspects of disease management, providing value to everyone who has a stake in producing better health outcomes."    

About the MicroMass Research Series

The MicroMass analysis of patient support programs is the latest in an ongoing series of studies examining issues of particular importance to pharmaceutical marketers, healthcare providers and healthcare educators. For a full report on the study, including a detailed listing of program ratings and commentary on the implications of the research, visit

About MicroMass Communications, Inc.

MicroMass offers unrivalled capabilities in the application of behavioral science to healthcare marketing and education support. Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Cary, N.C., MicroMass has created award-winning programs for some of the most respected names in the life sciences. For more information, visit



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SOURCE MicroMass Communications, Inc.