The pharmaceutical industry today: Focus on the patient

Apart from many technological and scientific developments, the changing role of the end consumer is the key factor in many trends in our market. From previously being almost passive recipients of the solutions that companies offered, consumers are evolving into true actors, and in some cases even partners in the pharmaceutical market.

All of those active in the health and pharmaceutical sector will need to develop a more connected, personalized and patient-centric approach that will enable us to not only better understand the needs of consumers, but to also meet these needs.

Consumer need 1: adherence

Non-adherence to curative or symptom-relieving medications is estimated at 20% to 30% of patients, and at 30% to 40% for preventive regimens. For long-term medication, this reaches as much as 50%. In the EU alone, 194,500 deaths per year are ascribed to misdose and non-adherence of prescribed medication[1]. It is clear that any strategy or product feature that will help consumers adhere better is both welcome and needed.

Difficulty of swallowing is known to be one of the obstacles for a better adherence. In one study[2], 65% of patients aged 70 or older had trouble swallowing.

Other hurdles that consumers have to overcome as they attempt to stick to their medication prescription are bad taste and/or odor and poor visual recognition of the correct medication.

Consumer need 2: personalization

One of the most exciting and promises developments is the drive towards personalized healthcare, whereby medication is developed (or modified) based on the specific profile and health status of the individual patient, thereby drastically increasing both effectiveness and efficiency of the therapy. In 2010 already, personalized medicine was on the investment agenda of over 95% of pharmaceutical companies and in over 50% of the clinical pipelines[3]. Meanwhile, in 2015, biopharmaceutical firms said they expected investment in personalized medicines to increase 33% over the next 5 years[4].

Consumer need 3: naturalness and clean-label

The quest for clean, and even more importantly, all-natural labels is a very powerful force in today's market. And this applies not only to food but also throughout other sectors. 23% of Chinese consumers and 21% of US consumers indicated that the claim "made with natural ingredients" positively influences their purchasing behavior, while 54% of UK and 50% of Australian consumers view a product as more natural if it contains fewer listed ingredients[5]. Furthermore, 62% of consumers worldwide rank the absence of undesirable ingredients higher than the presence of beneficial ones[6]. This movement started in the general food industry, but is now also becoming a challenge in the supplements and pharmaceutical markets.

How can PB Leiner help you tackle these issues, and seize the opportunities hidden in these changes we are seeing today?

It goes without saying that capsules as a delivery form for pharmaceuticals have been an established, reliable, safe and tested carrier for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) or food supplements for many years. But they are also ready to meet the challenges of the future. They can help overcome many of the obstacles towards realizing a better adherence, and can play a vital role in implementing answers to the trends of personalization and clean-label.

Because they are printable, for instance, they can be made more recognizable, thereby reducing the potential for mistakes in consumption. However, more importantly, this easy recognition that they offer is a critical condition for personalized medication - if medication is developed specifically for one individual patient, then it is crucial that it can be identified as such. Moreover, capsules are considered by consumers to be easier to swallow, as well as being taste and odor neutral.

The lower oxygen permeability of gelatin capsules compared to other ingredients not only allows for improved stability and safety of oxidation sensitive APIs, but it also adds to the taste and odor neutrality which is so important for patient adherence.

Most of all, gelatin is the prototypical clean-label ingredient. It is 100% natural, circular economy based, cupboard ingredient that every consumer knows and trusts. After all, which definition of "natural" would consumers trust more: "plant-based" vs. "not chemically treated"?

[1] "Targeting Adherence: Improving Patient Outcomes In Europe Through Community Pharmacist's Intervention", PGEU, May 2008; [2] "Oropharyngeal dysphagia as a risk factor for malnutrition and lower respiratory tract infection in independently living older persons: a population-based prospective study" MATEU SERRA-PRAT et al, Age and Ageing Advance Access, February 5, 2012; [3] Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, Impact Report, Vol. 12, 2010; [4] Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, Impact Report, Vol. 17, 2015; [5] Innova Market Insights, Consumer Survey, 2017; [6] Global Ingredient and Out of Home Dining Trends, Nielsen,  Aug 2016.