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Case Study: How a Patient-Support Program Increased Therapy Participation 20%, Upped Sales

by Kimberly Smith  |  
January 29, 2008

Company: Actelion Pharmaceuticals US, Inc.
Contact: Pablo Przygoda, Patient Initiative Product Manager
Location: San Francisco
Industry: Pharmaceuticals, B2C
Annual revenue: $1,200,000,000
Number of employees: 1500

Quick Read:

Actelion Pharmaceuticals' Tracleer product won US approval in 2001 as the first oral treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a complex illness that isn't well known among doctors, and difficult for patients to understand as a result. Tracleer helps patients control the symptoms of PAH, but it has a drawbacks of its own, including slow and gradual results, monthly blood test requirements and myriad side effects.

Faced with high patient-dropout rates in the years that followed Tracleer's release, Actelion Pharmaceuticals delved into market research and learned that it was not competing against other PAH therapy brands, which faced similar challenges. Rather, it was battling patient perceptions and expectations, which were causing patients to stop therapy before beneficial effects could be achieved.

"When we realized that, we decided to fill in the gap with patient education," said Pablo Przygoda, patient initiative product manager for Actelion Pharmaceuticals' US subsidiary.

By helping patients understand what to expect and providing them with a variety of support tools, the company succeeded in increasing therapy persistency among US patients by 20%. That helped boost US demand for the drug in 2007, when Tracleer sales grew 31% worldwide.

The Challenge:

There is no cure for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) - or continuous high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. Though Actelion Pharmaceuticals' Tracleer has proven effective in managing PAH symptoms, the benefits typically take two to three months to be realized.

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via

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  • by Tim Dawes Tue Oct 21, 2008 via web

    I've got to hand it to Actelion. They did the research, believed in the results (that patient behavior is a bigger competitor than competing brands) and took proactive steps to drive up adherence. A 20% increase in adherence is quite a reward for patients and for Actelion.

    If they're considering how to drive adherence even higher, they might look at support clinicians in becoming skilled talking to patients about reasons they might drop off the treatments. It's a skill that medical schools don't teach. And many patients discontinue use of medications but are afraid to admit it, or the reasons for it, to their clinician.

    Tim Dawes
    Healing from the Heart
    Interplay, Inc.

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