How to tackle challenges with patient adherence

September 23, 2017

4 Min Read
How to tackle challenges with patient adherence
Image provided by ABI

Package designs that offer more-thorough self-administration instructions could help pharmaceutical companies address patient adherence issues. In a presentation at Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Sept. 25-27; Las Vegas Convention Center), Alan Davies, global design manager, Essentra (Booth #N-540), will discuss how engaging, clever packaging can allow for more effective communication to patients who are controlling their own dosages at home. The session, titled “Why Patient Adherence is the Next Big Challenge for Pharmaceutical Packaging Providers and How They Should Tackle It,” will take place on the Innovation Stage Tuesday, Sept. 26 at noon.

Davies answers a few questions below on better understanding the scope of the challenge and the ways that drug companies can tackle it.

Q: What are some of the most significant challenges to patient adherence beyond the simple mistakes that can happen during self-administration?

Davies: Beyond the mistakes that can occur during self-administration, another factor affecting patient adherence is the sheer number of patients a doctor has to debrief on a daily basis. Misunderstandings can occur at the point of consultation, when doctors advise patients on new medications and proper protocol to follow. Doctors have to keep in mind that patients are often concerned about their health situations in these settings and may not fully absorb instructions. The introduction of patient-centric teams that are dedicated to helping patients and communicating prescription information is helping to address this issue. However, the advent of biosimilars brings additional complications to the drug regimen itself—particularly in clinical trials.     

Q: Which types of drugs have the lowest levels of patient adherence? 

Davies: Drugs using new biologics can pose significant challenges to patient adherence because they require different treatment patterns. Patients injecting themselves with these types of drugs may need to hold them in for a couple of seconds longer than they expect in order to administer the correct dosage. Additionally, drugs that rely on the cold chain can pose additional complexity. For these drugs, exposure beyond their optimum temperature corridors can affect their validity. Inhaler medications can be complicated to administer and require clear instructions. Regardless of how patient adherence issues happen, they can become very expensive in the context of clinical trials or at-home treatments. When a patient in a clinical trial setting does not follow instructions correctly, an entire trial can encounter complications.

Q: What are some important considerations pharmaceutical manufacturers must make when designing a package with this in mind? 

Davies: Both branded Rx companies and generics manufacturers alike should involve package designers as well as packaging and labeling suppliers early on in the production process to develop solutions that encourage patient adherence. User-friendly design, temperature-abuse flags, tamper-evident features, and greater product protection during shipment are essential early considerations. This is especially important for medical device manufacturers, over the counter (OTC) drug manufacturers, and clinical trial markets as these sectors seek differentiation from competition. Particularly for these companies, standardizing packaging and labeling would impede efforts to meet the specific application needs required by certain products.

Q. Can you discuss some important packaging innovations that have already improved the situation?

Davies: Actively engaging the consumer with the package can help improve patient compliance. Patients are able to study and learn about a prescription in different ways, including auditory and visual methods that transfer information from the caregiver to the patient. We see some momentum behind package designs that incorporate these features, whether through digital components or thorough illustrations.

Q: What are your predictions for the evolution of packaging (and the customer/supplier dynamic) as more drug companies take aim at overcoming this challenge?

Davies: We are likely to see more drug manufacturers consider the benefits added by features that foster greater patient adherence in their packaging—especially for applications in the medical device and biologics sectors. These companies generate most of their revenue in the first few months after their products are launched, so initial impressions and differentiation matter. Developing smarter packaging to ensure accurate dosing is a crucial part of the patient experience. The companies that master the art of instruction will empower both patients and doctors as they look to treat often life-altering conditions with the utmost confidence.

To learn more about Essentra’s Innovation Stage presentation, view the full schedule of sessions and register for Healthcare Packaging Expo at The show is produced by PMMI (, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, and co-located with Pack Expo Las Vegas.

Essentra plc is a leading global provider of essential components and solutions. For further information, please visit

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