Study Highlights the Value of Patient Support Programs


Researchers explore the proportion of approved drugs in the Canadian marketplace that utilize manufacturer-sponsored patient support programs, along with the types of medications that are more likely to do so.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/

When pharmaceutical companies release new drugs into the market, they can choose to provide patient support programs as a way to facilitate access, boost medication adherence, and overall patient outcomes. This can take shape in the form of training that can be tailored to a specific drug, as well as educational materials, and financial assistance.

A cross-sectional study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal1 sought to determine the proportion of drugs marketed in the country that had manufacturer-sponsored patient support programs, along with the specific services that were provided.

Using the Health Canada Drug Product and CompuScript databases, the prescription drugs needed to be available as of Aug. 23, 2022. In order to provide detailed accounts of offered services, the study investigators used publicly available data sources from patient support program websites, along with names of member companies from the Canadian pharmaceutical sector’s three main trade associations: Innovative Medicines Canada; BIOTECanada; and the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, representing the research-based side of the industry, biotech, and generic drug manufacturers, respectively.

With the help of logistic regression analyses, which reported the odds ratio with profile or likelihood-based 95% confidence intervals (CIs), they determined that the types of drugs that often warrant a patient support program, including:

  1. Orphan or biologic drug status
  2. Brand-name or branded generic
  3. The estimated total cost of prescriptions that are dispensed at retail pharmacies
  4. Price per unit

As a result, the investigators found a total of 2,556 drugs that were marketed by 89 companies, which even included those that were administered in outpatient and hospital environments. Overall, 256 drugs included a patient support program (10% of the total marketed drugs); out of the 89 companies, 55 of them (61.7%) offered programs.

A majority of the 263 patient support data sources that were identified were designed and distributed by the sponsoring manufacturer (n = 249, 94.7%), which was done via brochures, enrollment forms, press releases, and websites. The remaining 14 (5.3%) were powered by hospitals or patient associations that created the materials themselves.

In regard to the four types of drug classifications, more than half of the 256 drugs were biologics (n = 138, 53.9%) or had orphan drug status (n = 118, 46.1%), and over one-quarter of them had both designations (n = 67, 26.2%). A majority of the participating drugs with patient support programs had original market dates after 2012 (n = 183, 71.5%), with 104 (40.6%) marketed after 2018.

When it came to drug pricing, drugs that were priced $10.01–$100.00 per unit were nearly eight times more likely to have a patient support program (adjusted odds ratio 7.54, 95% confidence interval 4.07– 14.64), when compared with drugs priced $1.01–$10.00 per unit. The most popular patient support program services revolved around reimbursement navigation (n = 231, 90.2%) and clinical case management (n = 223, 87.1%).

Investigators noted that unlike prior research in this area, they found a higher prevalence of clinical support, such as nursing care and pharmacy coordination, which highlights the value of support programs not only to patients, but prescribers and payers as well.

“Industry-sponsored patient support programs routinely offer financial, clinical, and educational supports to patients, and are primarily available for high-cost drugs,” the investigators noted. “To understand the impact of patient support programs on patient and public health outcomes, and sustainable access to cost-effective medicines, greater transparency and independent evaluation of patient support programs is necessary.”


1. Quinn Grundy, Ashton Quanbury, Dana Hart, Shanzeh Chaudhry, Farideh Tavangar, Joel Lexchin, Marc-André Gagnon and Mina Tadrous.CMAJ. November 27, 2023;195 (46) E1565-E1576; DOI:

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