An Outlook on Data-Powered Patient Support

Publication
Article
Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - December 2023
Volume 18
Issue 6

Matt Wolf, president of biopharma services, Cencora, discusses the importance of partnership in helping to combat prescription drug abandonment and non-adherence.

 Matt Wolf

Matt Wolf

Many would agree that medication adherence—whether it be pertaining to treating a rare disease or another illness—is vital to successfully improving one’s health. In fact, studies have shown that the use of a patient support program can help improve medication-taking habits in the long-term.1

Matt Wolf, Cencora’s president of biopharma services, is an executive with over a decade and a half of experience working for the drug wholesaler in some capacity, whether it be alongside biopharma partners or from the healthcare provider’s perspective.

In an exclusive chat with Pharma Commerce, Wolf breaks down his thoughts on what it takes to form an effective adherence strategy, and how the industry can leverage analytics and data innovation to drive positive patient outcomes.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Pharma Commerce: You’ve been serving in your current role as Cencora’s president of biopharma services for over a year now. What have you learned in your new position thus far, and how has your previous experience with the company better prepared you for it?

Matt Wolf: Since I stepped into this role, I’ve had the opportunity to work more closely with our biopharma partners and dig deeper into their goals and the challenges they face. Throughout our conversations, one theme continues to emerge: pharmaceutical companies seek a partner that can help them overcome complex challenges related to the provider experience and patient journey.

Having spent the last 20-plus years working on the healthcare provider side of the business—both as a pharmacist in hospital and retail settings and then in various roles at Cencora—I am very familiar with providers’ unique needs and the value of solutions that can help them continue to deliver high-quality care, while reducing administrative burden. That experience is not only beneficial in conversations with our biopharma partners around solving for their needs, but it’s also helpful as our team works to introduce innovative solutions aimed at simplifying provider-related processes required to access patient support services and reducing potential barriers along the patient journey.

Q: An ongoing challenge surrounding patient support is medication adherence. Generally speaking, how can wholesalers work with drug manufacturers to help ensure that patients are following their drug regimen?

Matt Wolf: Prescription abandonment and non-adherence remains a critical issue. In 2022, IQVIA data revealed that patients starting a new therapy abandoned 94 million prescriptions at pharmacies due, in part, to out-of-pocket costs.2 But cost is not the sole driver of those abandoned prescriptions; 42 million were abandoned when costs were under $10, including zero cost prescriptions.2

No two patient journeys are the same. Therapy plans can be derailed by a variety of factors, so there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach.

We believe an effective adherence strategy must also account for two critical variables that can affect a patient’s ability to start and stay on therapy: access and affordability. We work with our pharma and biotech partners to understand their specific needs and then deliver services tailored to the patient population to reduce access barriers, improve speed-to-therapy, and keep patients engaged and supported throughout the treatment journey. Just to give one example: extended time spent verifying benefits can be a crucial barrier between patients and their prescribed therapy. We use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate and streamline the benefit verification process, enabling near real-time response, which helps to accelerate time-to-therapy.

As part of our approach, we leverage predictive analytics to better understand and identify a patient’s health-related behaviors and risk for non-adherence. We then develop personalized plans to engage and support patients throughout the journey. For example, we designed a program that incorporated a digital companion for a leading biologic manufacturer. During the first 90 days, 95% of patients self-reported completing their medication doses.

Q: From an affordability perspective, what copay assistance solutions and patient assistance programs does Cencora offer, and how specifically are they helping patients?

Matt Wolf: When thinking about the affordability landscape, it’s really important to consider market dynamics—particularly the payer and policy environment and any potential impact on programs and patient access. Recently, a federal judge struck down a rule3 that allowed health insurers to exclude drug manufacturer copay assistance toward a beneficiary’s out-of-pocket costs. By working closely with teams across Cencora, including our policy and reimbursement strategies, we're able to help our partners anticipate and prepare for changes—including the potential impact to their brand and the patients they serve—and then work with them to devise new strategies or make necessary adjustments to their programs.

As the specialty pharmaceutical market grows, we continue to elevate our copay solutions and patient assistance program services to meet our partners’ evolving needs and deliver support designed to reduce patients’ financial burdens. For example, by adding FirstView Financial’s payment processing services to our portfolio of solutions, we are able to deliver more integrated, turnkey affordability services—from our traditional strengths of enrollment and eligibility determination through to advanced claims administration capabilities, funds management and omnichannel payments—to help patients start prescribed therapy sooner and stay adherent longer.

We also partner with biopharma companies to design and execute effective and compliant patient assistance programs tailored to the product and patient needs. We leverage advanced technology to simplify and streamline the enrollment process for providers and patients, helping to accelerate patient access to therapies. Through our dedicated free goods pharmacy, we support more than one million shipments of pharmaceutical products annually, serving more than 260,000 patients each year.

Q: How do you envision the future of data-powered patient adherence shaping out, especially in regard to leveraging analytics and data innovation to drive positive patient outcomes?

Matt Wolf: We know the patient’s treatment journey can be incredibly complex. There is tremendous value in analytics or digital solutions that can provide more visibility into the journey, enable teams to predict a patient’s risk of non-adherence more accurately, and support the development of personalized engagement plans that drive behavioral change. We have already witnessed the potential benefit: we delivered an AI-driven adherence program to a biologic manufacturer who wanted to improve first-fill rates. Among patients with higher adherence risk, we saw an 8% increase in treatment initiation within 90 days. Meanwhile, nearly 25% of dormant patients started treatment after prioritized outreach.

Our team of data scientists continue to pilot new approaches to visualize the complexity of the patient journey and predict outcomes. We are also using additional datasets to enhance our insights into the patient experience, providing us with an opportunity to understand what is influencing behavior so we can adjust the program design to help those patients.

Through investments in technology solutions, automation, and analytics, we’re better positioned to deliver solutions tailored to our partners’ unique needs. Whether it’s leveraging technology to rapidly scale a program or using analytics and data to help our partners anticipate changes and plan effective program adjustments, our focus remains on delivering patient-centered support that helps drive positive outcomes for our partners and the patients they serve.

References

1. Fendrick, A.M.; Brixner, D.; Rubin, D.T.; Mease, P.; Liu, H.; Davis, M.; Mittal. M. Sustained Long-Term Benefits of Patient Support Program Participation in Immune-Mediated Diseases: Improved Medication-Taking Behavior and Lower Risk of a Hospital Visit. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2021. 27 (8), 1086-1095. https://www.jmcp.org/doi/full/10.18553/jmcp.2021.20560

2. IQVIA. The Use of Medicines in the US 2023: Usage and Spending Trends and Outlook to 2027. April 2023. https://www.iqvia.com/-/media/iqvia/pdfs/institute-reports/the-use-of-medicines-in-the-us-2023/the-use-of-medicines-in-the-us-2023.pdf

3. HIV and Hepatitis Policy Institute v. United States Department of Health and Human Services et al. (Case 1:22-cv-02604-JDB). https://hivhep.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/HIV-Hepatitis-Policy-Institute-v.-HHS-DDC-opinion.pdf

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