Now the drugs don't work

The next big thing in Pharma may not be another pill: Richard Hawkey - MSc Applied Psychology 

Vast amounts of intellectual and financial capital have been invested over many years of R&D and clinical trials to scientifically develop treatments that work – so called ‘evidence-based treatments’ – yet research consistently shows that adherence with medications hovers around 50%, at best, across a swathe of common chronic conditions. So why do half of patients not take the medicines designed to make them better? What’s wrong with them?

It turns out one answer may be quite simple and lies in some fundamental truths about human nature. We are social creatures at our core, we seek acknowledgement and acceptance and this often flies in the face of the western disease-model of medicine where we cease to be a unique individual and rather become a diagnosis to be treated according to an inanimate and utilitarian treatment plan.  

Again, research has shown us that when we feel genuinely cared for, when we believe the medical system genuinely wants us get better, participation in our own health improves and that includes sticking more closely to the prescribed treatments. Medical professionals do an admirable job of diagnosing, educating, supporting and prescribing during brief, infrequent consultations, but patients are invariably left alone for many days, weeks or months in between – precisely the time when appropriate psychosocial support can play a pivotal role in sustaining treatment resolve.  And, paradoxically perhaps, technology has now matured to a level where it can effectively join the dots in the treatment continuum to deliver truly individualised support, education and encouragement in a manner and at a time and place most suited to each patient.  

Don’t misunderstand me, I am a vocal supporter of pharmaceuticals – they have helped me manage chronic conditions for decades and improved my quality of life immeasurably – we just need to acknowledge that health is a multi-faceted, uniquely individual construct involving biological, psychological and social factors.

When all is said and done, you can take the pill to the patient, but they have to want to swallow it – the next big thing in Pharma may very well be wrapping the biological ingredients in a relevant psychosocial coating delivered by technology.

Chris KnightComment