Part 3: The Medical Affairs function – Focus on Patient Support Programs.
Written by Dr Niamh O’Reilly


Increasing consumerism and patient empowerment has driven a change in how the healthcare industry engages with patients to provide therapeutic solutions. The final installment of our three-part blog series explores how the rise of patient centricity is impacting the design of patient support programs (PSPs).

Adding value to patient support programs

Pharmaceutical and medical device companies develop PSPs to help patients gain maximum benefit from their prescribed treatment to improve patient health outcomes and promote the quality use of medicines. These programs play a key role in supporting patients, providing information about their condition, helping patients adhere to their medication taking and making better lifestyle choices. Traditional PSPs have often taken a “one-size fits all” approach to address patient non-adherence. 1

In this era of patient empowerment, however, there needs to be a different approach to designing PSPs that complements the role of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in patient care. Patients need to see the value for themselves in participating in a company’s program. Forward thinking healthcare companies understand the benefits of investing in holistic PSPs and will undertake patient research to gain insights into the support services they really need and provide platforms for patients to participate in their care. Figure 1 shows the structure of a “beyond the pill” holistic PSP whereby the program has clinical relevance beyond simple medication adherence. 1 For example, a valuable support service for patients beginning a biological therapy for example is to provide training on how to administer injections, which is also beneficial for HCPs since this added support can shorten the time to starting the patient on a new therapy. 2 Designing a holistic PSP can have multiple benefits for pharmaceutical companies including enhancing patient engagement, assisting quality use of medicines prescribing, providing evidence to payers of added value for patients and also retaining brand loyalty. 1,3

Figure 1. Holistic disease management approach to PSP

Adapted from “Creating Value Through Patient Support Programs”. 1

Patient support program key stakeholders

Understanding the patient journey

Each patient’s journey has various phases and companies should consider the needs of individual patients at these different times. 1 It is important to develop a deep understanding of the patient journey from the path to diagnosis, through to ongoing interactions with HCPs, treatment decisions for ongoing care, managing treatment side effects and re-evaluating the treatment plan. Developing knowledge of the patient journey in this way can reveal important opportunities to engage with patients and provide individualised support services at appropriate touch points when they are most receptive. Seeking out these opportunities is important because the way in which a patient and their support network respond to certain situations along the journey can impact their long-term health outcomes. 4

The effects of a patient’s illness on their life and the side effects of their treatment are often subjective and difficult to quantify such as when considering emotional, cognitive, psychological and social factors. Progressive PSPs ensure that patients are supported holistically in these ways in managing their illness and that the program itself is clinically relevant, i.e. has the ability to improve clinical outcomes even without the drug.5 This is particularly important for patients with a chronic illness who suffer relentless psychological, emotional and social effects of their disease and the challenge to remain adherent to their treatment regimen. Therapy adherence involves more than education or reminder services – it’s about the patient correlating an improvement in their overall well-being with medication taking and improved symptoms, which helps build patient loyalty to a brand. 2

CRC’s experienced Medical Affairs team can engage key stakeholders to inform development of PSPs that are not just about the medication taking but also encompass holistic disease management elements.


  1. Ockvirk A. 2016. Drug discovery and development magazine. Creating Value Through Patient Support Programs. Available at: https://www.dddmag.com/article/2016/03/creating-value-through-patient-support-programs
  2. Hensley E. Martini J. 2015. ZS Associates. Patient support programs that deliver results. Available at: https://www.zs.com/publications/articles/patient-support-programs-that-deliver-results.aspx
  3. Robinson R. 2014. PharmaVoice. Payers: Addressing the needs of payers. Available from: http://www.pharmavoice.com/article/payers/
  4. Ockvirk A. 2016. SKIM Group Presentation. Available at:https://www.slideshare.net/SKIMgroup/creating-value-through-patient-support-programs
  5. Butler A. 2015. LinkedIn Pulse. The five foundations of digital patient support programmes. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/five-foundations-digital-patient-support-programmes-alex-butler