According to pwc roughly $210 billion a year are wasted in the US due to misuse of medicine. And, besides misusage, care for conditions that could be avoided by patient’s lifestyle changes account for another $303-493 billion a year (1). Overall, non-adherence is a $637 billion problem for the pharma industry (2).

While the numbers sound scary they present a huge opportunity for pharma. If pharma cos provide services and medical devices that help patients have a more personal and supported disease journey they can create value for patients, lower costs and increase their revenues.

So what are the reasons patients don’t follow their therapy? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are three types of non-adherent patients. The erratic non-adherence, the unwitting non-adherence, and the intelligent non-adherence. Most patients unintentionally miss their dose because of forgetfulness, changing schedules or busy lifestyles. For pharma this translates into lost revenue. The second type are patients who take their dosage incorrectly because they misunderstood the doctor’s or the dosage instructions. Sadly, an estimated 125,000 unnecessary deaths occur each year in the United States because patients don’t follow their medication plan correctly. The last type of patients are those who intentionally skip or reduce their dose to either feel better or because they are concerned about the short-or long term side effects of their drugs (3). 

Taken together, these facts make adherence both an economic and an ethical problem (4). 

Mobile health applications and the ‘gamification’ of healthcare seem like promising approaches to help patients with adherence (1). Bayer as an example, created a blood glucose monitoring system, which can be plugged into a Nintendo and instils the habit of regular blood glucose testing for children. Parentes can testify that stabilising daily routines for children especially with severe diseases is more successful when making things fun (5). Pfizer started the initiative ‘this is living with cancer’ and built the LivingWith healthcare application, which enabled remote interaction between patients and their doctors, support groups and caregivers. The app includes tracking, monitoring and document management features and integrates with Apple Health to collect real-time activity data (6).

According to McKinsey, predicting patient behavior and designing tailored interventions are two core steps to success when it comes to improving adherence (7). In the next blog post we will detail what to look out for when translating these principles into actions. And designing impactful digital patient support. 

Stay connected, stay healthy!


P.S.: Ariana can provide you with a solution to non-adherence – get in touch to learn how she does it.

1 Arlington, Dr. S. (et al.). PWC: From vision to decision Pharma2020. (
2 Matthius, A. (2019). New study finds increasing adherence can boost pharma’s revenue. (
3 The WHO Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal (2019). Adherence to Long-Term Therapies – Evidence for Action. (
4 Accelerating progress in prescription medicine adherence: The Adherence Action Agenda, National Council on Patient Information and Education, October 2013,
5 Bayer Didget Blood Glucose monitoring system: (
6 Digiteum, Digital Strategy eHealth (2018). Patient engagement mobile apps for pharma.
7 Fox, B. et al. (2017). McKinsey&Company: A 360- degree approach to patient adherence. (